Monday, July 19, 2004

Immigration and the Dutch government

The Dutch government has passed a tough new law that requires the expulsion of foreign immigrants who fail to qualify for asylum status by 2006. The deportation will have to be carried out by the various cities and the authorities there are restive as they foresee serious logistical problems. The numbers involved are likely to be around 26,000.
Apart from the new immigrants who do not qualify for asylum status the law also targets some of the older ones who have failed to integrate into Dutch life and have not accepted the rules of Dutch society. This law is strikingly similar to the demands made by Pim Fortuyn in 2002 before his assassination. It is also similar to the policies of the Vlaams Blok in Belgium.
The Netherlands is a very densely populated country but has had in the past extremely liberal immigration laws and generous social welfare provisions for immigrants. They now fear social consequences of having large groups of unassimilated groups, mostly from Moslem countries.
Rinus Penninx, academic director of the University of Amsterdam's Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, said during a Washington visit last week that many of the local authorites fear that if they start implementing the law, the illegal immigrants will simply move away from the centre of the cities but will stay in the country and become an even greater problem. He also added that Holland was now paying for the fact that all political parties avoided a debate on the subject in the past.
Close attention is being paid across Europe to the outcome of the Dutch legislation and its implementation. In Italy, a court last week declared a strict anti-immigration law passed by Berlusconi’s government invalid.
Human rights groups have protested in the Netherlands but, at the moment, the government seems determined to be tough.

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