The Netherlands have Interner Link: attracted migrants for centuries. Initially, they were encouraged to maintain their own cultures. Since the 1990s, however, there has been increasing pressure to assimilate into Dutch culture. Immigrants' rights have become increasingly conditional on successful integration. Migration for family purposes has been restricted over time. The electoral success of anti-immigrant parties since the turn of the millennium has fuelled this development.
Following the policy path of the past 15 years in which the rights of immigrants have become increasingly conditional on successful Interner Link: integration, the government recently introduced a proposal to increase the residence requirement for Interner Link: naturalization from five to seven years. A vote is expected to take place in late 2014. While there have been debates about further raising the requirements for family migration, policy changes are unlikely because they will conflict with the EU Family Reunification Directive. Interner Link: Policy changes are not uniformly restrictive. The government is increasingly trying to attract highly skilled workers. In June 2013, the law on a Modern Migration Policy (wet Modern Migratiebeleid, MoMi) came into effect. The Netherlands is trying to improve its attractiveness to highly skilled migrants by streamlining visa application procedures and providing access to those with degrees from top universities.
Debate on Immigration: A Turning Point?
While the recession has replaced immigration as main public concern, emotional debates about immigrant integration are ongoing. Under the guise of freedom of expression, people present their views on "the problem with (Muslim) immigrants" in often disparaging terms. Immigrants and their descendants feel societal acceptance of migrants has decreased.
Non-Western immigrant groups have made gains in educational and labor market achievement. Nevertheless Dutch residents of non-Western origin still underperform compared to Dutch natives, especially in the labor market. While exact reasons for this underperformance are unknown, discrimination is likely to be a contributing factor. Awareness of labor market discrimination is increasing. While the Netherlands has long had extensive anti-discrimination legislation, the government has done little to combat the more subtle forms of discrimination that occur in the labor market or in nightlife.
Immigration from EU Member States
The growing presence of migrants from the new-EU Member States has attracted a range of concerns. There are problems with the housing of migrants who do seasonal and low skilled labor. The workers often live in overcrowded accommodation and are being exploited by landlords and employers. Municipal governments are trying to combat overcrowding and rogue landlords. While the labor market participation of this group is very high, recent increases in benefit claims have caused alarm among politicians. There is very little evidence to suggest that welfare dependence is a (structural) problem among this group, but the experience with the guest worker communities has made politicians wary of problems in this area. There is a rise of crime suspects from Central and Eastern European countries; however this mainly concerns people who come to the Netherlands with the aim to commit criminal acts rather than labor migrants.
This text is part of the Interner Link: country profile Netherlands.
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: email@example.com