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Current Developments and Future Challenges | 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

Current Developments and Future Challenges

Evelyn Ersanilli

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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.

Polish supermarket in The Hague: The growing presence of migrants from the new EU member states has attracted a range of concerns. (© picture alliance/JOKER )

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. Social contacts between immigrants and natives have decreased between 1994 and 2011 . It is unclear whether this is a product of the growing size of immigrant groups or of avoidance. There are some signs that the ferocity of the immigration debate has passed its peak. In March of 2014, Wilders suffered a public backlash at a post-municipal election event when he got his audience chanting "fewer, fewer" in response to his question whether they would like more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. Several representatives left the party. It is too early to gauge the long-term effect on party support, but the response by a right-wing paper (de Telegraaf) suggests a turning point may have been reached. Furthermore, in the past few years the share of native Dutch who believe there are too many migrants in the Netherlands 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. Finally there are concerns that, like previous waves of migrants, long-term migrants will not learn Dutch. Because of the EU freedom of movement, the Dutch state cannot require these migrants to sit a civic Interner Link: integration exam. However in response to parliamentary questions the minister of the interior noted that in 2010 more than 4,000 Polish migrants voluntarily participated in civic integration programs.

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



  1. Huijnk/Dagevos (2012).

  2. Huijnk/Dagevos (2012).

  3. "Opportunisten-kabinet bestraft", March 21 2014, editorial

  4. Huijnk/Dagevos (2012).

  5. Final report by the parliamentary enquiry "Lessons from recent labor migration" (Parlementair onderzoek Lessen uit recente artbeidsmigratie), TK 2011-2012, 32680 nr 4.

  6. TK 2011-2012, 257.


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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: