Immigration

A Dutch problem?

The prevailing self-image of the Dutch has always been one of a strong international orientation and an open mind towards influences from abroad: an open society with open borders.

Immigration

The Dutch prided themselves on their tolerance for other cultures and religions, and they were believed to welcome immigrants and refugees from all over the world.

In the late twentieth century the Netherlands had become one of the countries in Europe with the largest share of foreign-born residents. Its generous and respectful policies of multiculturalism served as a shining example for other immigration societies. Since the turn of the millennium, however, the Dutch mind appears to have been closing at an unprecedented speed. Immigration is now seen as a major problem, as a threat to social stability and to Dutch culture. The murders of politician Pim Fortuyn (2002 ) and film director Theo van Gogh (2004 ), both of them outspoken antagonists of immigration, in particular from Muslim countries, shocked the nation.

In the 2009 European elections Geert Wilders’s anti-immigration and anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) became the second largest party of the country, only three percentage points behind the Christian Democrats (CDA).

A brief history of immigration

Already in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Republic was a safe haven for Protestants and Jews persecuted elsewhere in Europe. Particularly welcome were those who brought along entrepreneurial skills and money. Without immigration, the Dutch “Golden Age” would have been much less prosperous. Over many years, tens of thousands of migrant workers from neighboring countries came to work in agriculture, industry or shipping. Many of them settled for good. Numerous family names that now seem utterly Dutch, in fact have French or German roots. In the year 1700, for example, forty percent of the population of Amsterdam were foreign-born. The role of the Dutch in international trade and in colonizing other parts of the world could never have been a success without an ability to adapt to highly different conditions and cultures. Even the tulip, the ultimate national symbol, was, in fact, imported from Turkey in the fifteenth century.

Much of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were characterized by an emigration surplus. Many Dutch left the country for one of the colonies – above all for the Dutch East Indies – or they emigrated to the “New World.” After the Second World War this pattern reversed once more. Since then, immigrants have been arriving from former colonies, from labor recruitment countries around the Mediterranean Sea, from other countries in Europe, and, increasingly, from all over the world. The recent history of immigration to the Netherlands and the immigrant presence in the country are not drastically different from those in nearby West European countries. Currently, about eleven percent of the Dutch population of 16.5 million people are foreign-born and for that reason can be qualified as immigrants. If one includes the so-called second generation (that is to say their Dutch-born children), the percentage goes up to twenty.

Thus, one in five persons living in the Netherlands is either an immigrant or a child of an immigrant. These figures include people with a background in other EU-countries, in Western countries outside the European Union as well as in pre-independent Indonesia. The number of residents with “non-Western origins,” as official Dutch statistics call them, stands at around 1.8 million, just over one-tenth of the population. Among these “visible minorities” three communities stand out in size: Turks, Surinamese and Moroccans, each numbering between 300 .000 and 400.000.

The Turkish and the Moroccan communities are legacies of the so-called “guest worker” policies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which were followed by a rather generous program of settlement and family reunion. Most migrants from Surinam arrived in the 1970s, when this former Dutch colony acquired political independence. Since the late 1980s the origins of immigration have become much more diverse. The end of the Cold War led to a significant growth of East European migrants and of asylum seekers, some of whom later acquired refugee status. Besides, growing numbers of Dutch and foreign residents find their spouses in other countries. In recent years, the number of highly skilled migrant workers has also increased, although many of them do not settle permanently. Meanwhile, follow-up migration among the three largest “non-Western” communities, the Turks, the Surinamese and the Moroccans, is continuing, albeit at a much slower pace than before.

Foreign citizens constitute only a minority of all people of immigrant descent. In fact, only 4.5 percent of the population of the Netherlands do nothold a Dutch passport, less than in most nearby countries. This is largely an effect of a generous naturalization policy in the past and the fact that nearly all (post) colonial migrants hold Dutch passports anyway. Yet, unlike many other immigration countries in Europe, citizenship is not generally considered as the primary distinguishing factor between migrants and the native population. Rather, ethnic origin tends to be more relevant in the public perception as a means of differentiating between them and us. The Dutch have even coined a term for this: the Greek-based word allochtoon (non-indigenous) refers to someone whose ethnic roots lie outside the Netherlands and who, for that reason, can be differentiated from autochtoon (indigenous), the native Dutch. An interesting, but unresolved question, of course, is whether an allochtoon can ever become autochtoon and, if so, at what stage in the integration process or even after how many generations.

Settlement patterns of people with an immigrant background, irrespective of where one places the defining boundary between allochtoon andautochtoon, are quite unbalanced. As in most other countries in Europe, migrants tend to be overrepresented in the larger cities and underrepresentedin the countryside. Initially, most migrants came to the cities, where employment and educational opportunities were best. Once migrant communitieshad settled there, follow-up migrants tended to join them, taking advantage of the increasing social and geographic mobility of the original population,who had left the least attractive housing to the new arrivals. The largest four cities in the country (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht) house only thirteen percent of the total population of the Netherlands, but they accommodate over thirty percent of all immigrants. In Amsterdam andRotterdam almost half the population has an immigrant background (first and second generation), as do two-thirds of the school-aged children andyouth in these cities. In certain neighborhoods only a small autochtone population of students and pensioners has stayed behind.

Article from "Discovering the Dutch". Click here  to get a copy now.

The Dutch prided themselves on their tolerance for other cultures and religions, and they were believed to welcome immigrants and refugees from all over the world.

In the late twentieth century the Netherlands had become one of the countries in Europe with the largest share of foreign-born residents. Its generous and respectful policies of multiculturalism served as a shining example for other immigration societies. Since the turn of the millennium, however, the Dutch mind appears to have been closing at an unprecedented speed. Immigration is now seen as a major problem, as a threat to social stability and to Dutch culture. The murders of politician Pim Fortuyn (2002 ) and film director Theo van Gogh (2004 ), both of them outspoken antagonists of immigration, in particular from Muslim countries, shocked the nation.

In the 2009 European elections Geert Wilders’s anti-immigration and anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) became the second largest party of the country, only three percentage points behind the Christian Democrats (CDA).

A brief history of immigration

Already in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Republic was a safe haven for Protestants and Jews persecuted elsewhere in Europe. Particularly welcome were those who brought along entrepreneurial skills and money. Without immigration, the Dutch “Golden Age” would have been much less prosperous. Over many years, tens of thousands of migrant workers from neighboring countries came to work in agriculture, industry or shipping. Many of them settled for good. Numerous family names that now seem utterly Dutch, in fact have French or German roots. In the year 1700, for example, forty percent of the population of Amsterdam were foreign-born. The role of the Dutch in international trade and in colonizing other parts of the world could never have been a success without an ability to adapt to highly different conditions and cultures. Even the tulip, the ultimate national symbol, was, in fact, imported from Turkey in the fifteenth century.

Much of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were characterized by an emigration surplus. Many Dutch left the country for one of the colonies – above all for the Dutch East Indies – or they emigrated to the “New World.” After the Second World War this pattern reversed once more. Since then, immigrants have been arriving from former colonies, from labor recruitment countries around the Mediterranean Sea, from other countries in Europe, and, increasingly, from all over the world. The recent history of immigration to the Netherlands and the immigrant presence in the country are not drastically different from those in nearby West European countries. Currently, about eleven percent of the Dutch population of 16.5 million people are foreign-born and for that reason can be qualified as immigrants. If one includes the so-called second generation (that is to say their Dutch-born children), the percentage goes up to twenty.

Thus, one in five persons living in the Netherlands is either an immigrant or a child of an immigrant. These figures include people with a background in other EU-countries, in Western countries outside the European Union as well as in pre-independent Indonesia. The number of residents with “non-Western origins,” as official Dutch statistics call them, stands at around 1.8 million, just over one-tenth of the population. Among these “visible minorities” three communities stand out in size: Turks, Surinamese and Moroccans, each numbering between 300 .000 and 400.000.

The Turkish and the Moroccan communities are legacies of the so-called “guest worker” policies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which were followed by a rather generous program of settlement and family reunion. Most migrants from Surinam arrived in the 1970s, when this former Dutch colony acquired political independence. Since the late 1980s the origins of immigration have become much more diverse. The end of the Cold War led to a significant growth of East European migrants and of asylum seekers, some of whom later acquired refugee status. Besides, growing numbers of Dutch and foreign residents find their spouses in other countries. In recent years, the number of highly skilled migrant workers has also increased, although many of them do not settle permanently. Meanwhile, follow-up migration among the three largest “non-Western” communities, the Turks, the Surinamese and the Moroccans, is continuing, albeit at a much slower pace than before.

Foreign citizens constitute only a minority of all people of immigrant descent. In fact, only 4.5 percent of the population of the Netherlands do nothold a Dutch passport, less than in most nearby countries. This is largely an effect of a generous naturalization policy in the past and the fact that nearly all (post) colonial migrants hold Dutch passports anyway. Yet, unlike many other immigration countries in Europe, citizenship is not generally considered as the primary distinguishing factor between migrants and the native population. Rather, ethnic origin tends to be more relevant in the public perception as a means of differentiating between them and us. The Dutch have even coined a term for this: the Greek-based word allochtoon (non-indigenous) refers to someone whose ethnic roots lie outside the Netherlands and who, for that reason, can be differentiated from autochtoon (indigenous), the native Dutch. An interesting, but unresolved question, of course, is whether an allochtoon can ever become autochtoon and, if so, at what stage in the integration process or even after how many generations.

Settlement patterns of people with an immigrant background, irrespective of where one places the defining boundary between allochtoon andautochtoon, are quite unbalanced. As in most other countries in Europe, migrants tend to be overrepresented in the larger cities and underrepresentedin the countryside. Initially, most migrants came to the cities, where employment and educational opportunities were best. Once migrant communitieshad settled there, follow-up migrants tended to join them, taking advantage of the increasing social and geographic mobility of the original population,who had left the least attractive housing to the new arrivals. The largest four cities in the country (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht) house only thirteen percent of the total population of the Netherlands, but they accommodate over thirty percent of all immigrants. In Amsterdam andRotterdam almost half the population has an immigrant background (first and second generation), as do two-thirds of the school-aged children andyouth in these cities. In certain neighborhoods only a small autochtone population of students and pensioners has stayed behind.

Article from "Discovering the Dutch". Click here  to get a copy now.

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