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Irregular Migration | Netherlands |

Netherlands Introduction Historical Trends Immigration Policy Immigrant Population Integration Policy Citizenship Immigrant Integration Irregular Migration Refuge and Asylum Current Developments References and Further Reading

Irregular Migration

Evelyn Ersanilli

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The Netherlands have Interner Link: attracted migrants for centuries. Not all of them reside in the country legally.

Refugees demonstrating against the criminalization of irregular migrants and the Dutch immigration policy in The Hague (May 2013). (© picture alliance / ANP)

It was estimated that in 2009 there were between 60,667 and 133,624 irregular migrants in the Netherlands. This is a considerable drop from the estimates of 150,000 to 200,000 irregular migrants for the period 1997–2003. Irregular migrants come from countries with long-standing migration to the Netherlands such as Turkey and Morocco, refugee sending countries and countries that have more recently started sending labor migrants to the Netherlands such as Ukraine and the Interner Link: Philippines.

The drop in the number of apprehended irregular migrants since 2003 is partly due to EU enlargement; migrants from Central and Eastern European countries who were previously irregular now enjoy the right to free movement. Until 2004, Europeans made up about a third of apprehended irregular migrants.

In the late 1990s there were many protests by so-called "white illegals" (witte illegalen), people who were living in the Netherlands without a residence permit but were employed and paid taxes. Several hundred of these "white illegals" were later granted residence permits. The 1998 Linking Act (koppelingswet) restricted the ability of irregular migrants to pursue regular employment. The act linked the databases of several government institutions (tax authorities, immigration services, municipalities), so that irregular immigrants could be easily excluded from public services and prevented from being issued a social security number (a prerequisite for regular employment, social security benefits and subsidized housing). The law does allow access to education for children under 18 and people with "imperative" medical needs access to treatment. Further control measures focus on employers. The police perform regular inspections in sectors that are known to employ irregular migrants, such as agriculture and food services. Employers who are caught employing irregular migrants can be fined.

While staying in the Netherlands without authorization is not a crime, irregular migrants who end up in police custody can be detained in deportation centers if the authorities believe that they can be deported in the near future.

This text is part of the Interner Link: country profile Netherlands.

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Dr. Evelyn Ersanilli is a Departmental Lecturer in Migration Studies at the International Migration Institute (IMI) at the University of Oxford. E-mail: E-Mail Link: