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The Netherlands: Death of a Filmmaker Shakes a Nation

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The Netherlands: Death of a Filmmaker Shakes a Nation

Immigration, asylum, and most particularly immigrant integration have been among the hottest political issues in the Netherlands since the late 1990s. The November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh at the hands of Dutch-Moroccan Mohammed Bouyeri as van Gogh cycled through an Amsterdam street reinforced to the Dutch and the world that tolerance and multiculturalism Netherlands-style had proven largely unsuccessful.

The integration of immigrants and refugees in the Netherlands has been a hot political issue since the emergence of the late Pim Fortuyn as a major political figure in 2001; an animal rights activist assassinated him in May 2002, just before national elections. Fortuyn's political party, which advocated barring new immigrants from Dutch shores until those already there had been integrated into society, was reduced to eight parliamentary seats from 26 in 2003 elections.

However, the declining fortunes of the party have not signaled the demise of the immigrant integration issue. In fact, there has been a rush to take on the mantle of "Fortuyn's legacy" of plain-talking and anti-political correctness where immigration and integration are concerned.

Once Cherished Tolerance Now Under Pressure

The Netherlands has long had a reputation as a humanitarian haven. Famously welcoming to the Huguenots, religious and political refugees fleeing France in the 17th century, this seafaring nation has always been open when called upon to protect. Since the 16th century, refugees and immigrants have been attracted to its shores because of its tolerance and prosperity. During the World War I, up to 900,000 Belgians fled to the neutral Netherlands, and 300,000 were still in the Netherlands at the end of that conflict. Almost all returned.

In the 1930s, many Jews fled from Germany and Austria to the Netherlands, as did other political refugees. By 1940 there were about 20,000 refugees from those two countries in the Netherlands. Under occupation, and with no place to hide, these refugees had to either move on or perish during the war. Most of them perished.

Following World War II, immigration resulting from the Dutch colonial heritage started. There were Dutch returnees along with the descendants of those Dutch citizens who had lived and worked in Indonesia, Suriname, and the Caribbean.

From 1945 to 1965, a total of some 300,000 people (180,000 of whom were Eurasians) moved from Indonesia to the Netherlands. Migration from Suriname after its independence in 1975 was less significant in scale, but presented its own problems, as the Surinamese had had the right to move to the Netherlands as Dutch citizens. Twenty years after independence, there were about 296,000 people of Surinamese origin in the Netherlands, about 35 percent of these having been born on Dutch soil.

The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba also form part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the people from those islands have Dutch nationality, yet their arrival in the Netherlands is popularly seen as immigration.

Between the end of World War II and 1974, the Netherlands, like Germany and other Western European states, received guest workers through labor recruitment programs. These workers came primarily from Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, and Yugoslavia. Their migration was intended to be temporary, but in many cases it was not. After 1975, the major migration flows from these same countries were for family reunification and family formation (except the refugee migration from former Yugoslavia in the 1990s).

From 1945 to the early 1980s, relatively few refugees arrived in the Netherlands. Those who did were mostly resettled. Some refugees simply joined the ranks of economic migrants until 1974.

In 1985, the 4,522 people spontaneously seeking asylum in the Netherlands became significant enough (the numbers had hovered around 1,000 between 1978 and 1983) that a change was made in the official approach to asylum and refugee migration. The goal was to keep resettlement numbers at around 500 per year while developing a system of receiving and processing for spontaneous arrivals. This allowed the authorities to identify the bona fide refugees among the asylum seekers.

The number of asylum seekers arriving rose to a peak of over 45,000 in 1998, while resettlement arrivals dropped into the dozens. Arrivals for asylum have, following significant restrictions, dropped to under 10,000 in 2004, and there is new attention being paid to resettlement.

As in other areas of life in the Netherlands, tolerance was a key and much used word when discussing immigrants' (including asylum seekers' and refugees') presence in the country. Various dress codes, religions, and forms of behavior, for example, were either tolerated or more or less ignored at both a societal and a political level. The country was said to be "multicultural."

By the end of the 1990s, however, questions arose as to whether this multiculturalism and tolerance was something tangible: whether it meant there was one society of many cultures, or effectively multiple societies that would ultimately clash, particularly as the country's population increased.

"This Country Is Full:" But Is It Starting to Empty?

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with 388 people per square kilometer in 2000 according to United Nation (UN) estimates. European Union (EU) Member States, other than the island nation of Malta, have much lower population densities (ranging from Belgium, the highest with 336, to Finland, the lowest with 15). Pim Fortuyn, with his popularity at its zenith, stated in a BBC interview shortly before his death, "I just say, the Netherlands is a small country…we are already overcrowded, there's no more room and we must shut the borders."

At the end of 2004, Statistics Netherlands estimated the population of the Netherlands at 16,292,353. A total of 19.2 percent of the population, just over 3.1 million, was officially counted in 2005 as being of non-Dutch origin (i.e., with at least one parent born outside the Netherlands).

About half (1.6 million) of this non-Dutch origin population are first-generation immigrants, meaning they were themselves born outside the Netherlands; the other 1.5 million are second generation — born in the Netherlands with at least one foreign-born parent — and frequently citizens of the Netherlands or holding dual nationality (see Table 1).

The total non-Dutch origin population is also split between people of non-Western origin (1.7 million) and people whose country of origin (or whose parents' country of origin) is not the Netherlands but in the West — Europe, North American, Oceania, Indonesia and Japan (1.4 million). The largest group of non-Westerners in the Netherlands is Turkish (358,846); more than half of this population (163,168) were born in the Netherlands.

In 2004, 55,600 requests were made for MVV visas, which give permission for entry to the Netherlands to a person planning to remain for over three months; the person must request permission for longer stay upon arrival. Such visas are required by citizens of certain, but not all, non-EU countries. Of these applications, the vast majority (73 percent) were requests based on family formation or reunification; 53 percent (21,500) of the applications were accepted. Turks (16 percent) and Moroccans (14 percent) formed the biggest groups of applicants for this visa category.

The largest group of arrivals in 2004, when asylum arrivals dropped below 10,000, was people arriving for family formation purposes, often to live with or marry a Dutch partner of Moroccan or Turkish origin. Since many of these spouses and partners come from Morocco and Turkey, the Dutch public and politicians see their arrival as an indication that integration simply has not happened; otherwise, immigrants and their children would find partners in the Netherlands.

As in many other European countries, the total fertility rate (TFR) in the Netherlands has remained below replacement level, at 1.75 in 2003. This level was reached after a steady drop in the first half of the 1970s, which began with a TFR of 2.6 in 1970. The TFR has risen slowly but steadily from 1.6 in 1980.

Despite the low TFR, the population has continued to grow, but the level of growth slowed significantly in 2004. Growth had been partially driven by immigration.

However, in 2003, emigration from the Netherlands exceeded immigration to the country for the first time since the early 1980s. Emigration is defined by Statistics Netherlands as registering a departure for at least eight months out of the following year. Immigration is defined as registering to remain in the Netherlands for at least four months out of the following six months. Both categories can include Dutch nationals.

Total annual immigration in 2004 was 94,019, with the largest numbers arriving from other European countries (54,461), followed by Asia (14,849). Some 20,000 immigrants were Dutch nationals, and just over 3,000 more came from the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Emigration in 2004 stood at 110,235; 74,651 of these were Europeans, including 47,377 Dutch nationals, and 4,790 emigrants were originally from the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. By comparison, in 2001, there were 133,404 immigrants and 82,566 emigrants.

The overall slowing in the growth of the Dutch population has primarily been caused by a major decrease in immigration from non-Western countries. Asylum arrivals have dropped significantly since 2002. Emigration from the Netherlands, meanwhile, seems to be primarily of Dutch citizens.

Higher levels of emigration continued into the first quarter of 2005. It is too soon to know whether this is a new trend — or to what extent emigration is a reaction to political, economic, and social factors. Some analysts speculate that both reduced immigration and increased emigration could be caused by the failure of integration policies in the Netherlands, and the tension among and between communities that has resulted from this failure.

Integration and Multiculturalism

The Dutch government began to develop and implement policies aimed at the immigrant population under the heading of "minority policy" in the 1980s. The term "integration" was rarely used: terms such as "emancipation" and "combating disadvantage" were much more common in the early days.

From the 1990s, however, the notion of integration became more central, with the approach focused on full and equal participation, mutual acceptance, and non-discrimination. During the early 1990s, multiculturalism emerged as the preferred policy approach; this meant the entire population should be fully involved in society, with the goal of accepting differences since they make up part of the whole.

By the end of the 1990s, however, many people in the Netherlands seem to have agreed that they did not really understand multiculturalism. If they thought they understood it, then they were not sure it was working. There was much discussion and comparison of the Netherlands to other EU states, the U.S., and Australia.

In 2000, a strong and well-timed essay published in one of the major national newspapers, the NRC Handelsblad, brought the debate to a new, more public level. A "multicultural drama" was the way in which Paul Scheffer, a left-wing political commentator, described the experience of the previous 15 years. He attacked many taboos about diversity and multiculturalism, and the article became the foundation on which a series of public debates, responses, attacks, and counter-attacks were based. At the heart of the discussion was the future of Dutch integration policy, as well as the country's immigration policy — even if that was not Scheffer's intention.

In the May 15, 2002 elections, the four-month-old Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) won a resounding victory (in the context of a brand-new party in a multi-party, proportional representation system) by winning 17.9 percent of the votes. The defining position taken by the party was to limit new immigration into the Netherlands.

The party's manifesto called for halting new immigration while integrating existing immigrants more effectively. Just days before he was assassinated, Fortuyn had announced that he would grant amnesty to all rejected asylum seekers and other irregular migrants who were currently in the Netherlands, had been there for at least five years, and spoke Dutch.

Denied the post of justice minister in the cabinet, in large part due to the forthcoming case against Fortuyn's assassin, the LPF instead was offered the newly created post of minister for integration and immigration. The position was placed within the Justice Ministry infrastructure as a full ministerial and cabinet-level post but without attachment to areas of criminal law.

The 2002 coalition government between the Christian Democrats (CDA), Fortuyn's LPF, and the VVD collapsed after just 87 days in power, largely as a result of infighting in the LPF. Following the January 2003 elections, lengthy and painful negotiations ultimately led to a new three-party coalition comprised of the CDA, VVD, and D66, a small centrist party that had been a member of two coalitions in the 1990s.

The new coalition decided to maintain the post of minister of integration and immigration, with the VVD's Rita Verdonk taking up the position.

Multiculturalism had been the buzzword and the explicit principle of the government's approach. After the 2003 elections, the word "multicultural" disappeared from plans of the center-right governing coalition's plans. The new stipulation is that people must integrate into, and understand the norms and values of, a broadly tolerant Dutch community.

Integration After the Van Gogh Murder

The sense that integration must be prioritized has only increased since the Netherlands felt itself (rightly or wrongly) thrust fully into the "War on Terror" in November 2004 with Theo van Gogh's murder. The killer, following his arrest just minutes after the murder, was identified as having dual Dutch and Moroccan citizenship. The murder sparked outrage across the Netherlands and around the world.

There is no question that Mohammed Bouyeri, sentenced in July 2005 to life in prison for the murder, was motivated by his religious feelings. He pinned a "letter" to van Gogh's body which, it was later revealed, was a lengthy, handwritten religious text targeting Van Gogh's collaborator on the short film "Submission" — Ayan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali, who naturalized as a Dutch citizen after arriving as a Somali refugee and became a member of parliament for the VVD in 2002, went into hiding. She has spent the last months under police protection at various secret locations.

Minister of Integration and Immigration Verdonk immediately made van Gogh's murder an integration issue, not least by very symbolically (and in the face of a quite hostile public reaction) speaking at a noisy rally organized in Amsterdam the evening of the murder, and saying bluntly, "It has gone this far, and it goes no further."

The Arab European League criticized her speech because it created an "us and them" discourse. But the "it goes no further" mantra was picked up by other politicians and broad segments of the population.

The polarizing nature of the situation developed in the days and weeks following the murder. The parliamentary leader of the VVD, Jozias van Aartsen, immediately labeled the murder an act of terrorism, while others were more focused on the issue of freedom of expression and the brutal cutting down of an outspoken critic of Islam. The rounding up of a suspected terrorist cell known as the "Hofstad Group" the week after the murder added to the sense that organized terrorism was behind it.

The public at large, however, appeared skeptical of the link to "global terror." They tended to see the murder as a symbol or symptom of a broader problem with immigrant, and particularly Moroccan, integration. In retaliation for the murder, there were numerous attacks and counter-attacks on mosques, churches, and Islamic schools, the worst of which destroyed whole buildings.

Some characterized the tension as being between the secular, tolerant Dutch and the religious, intolerant Muslims. For others, the tension was more discriminating. Integration discussions in the past had characterized the "Turks and Moroccans" in one breath as not integrated. But in the weeks following van Gogh's murder, many in the Netherlands singled out Moroccans as the problem community.

Leaders across the political spectrum seemed able to identify problems and their causes, but they had few answers. Labor Party leader Wouter Bos summed up the problem as being that for 40 or 50 years, immigrants had been left isolated within the midst of Dutch society while the government and the public were too hands-off in their approach.

Only Geert Wilders, who had been expelled from the VVD for his extreme anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric and formed his own eponymous party of one, claimed to have a solution. Just two days after van Gogh's murder, Wilders proclaimed that closing mosques and throwing criminal foreigners out of the country was the answer. This was not adopted.

Meanwhile, Minister Verdonk began looking at altering the nationality laws of the Netherlands to prohibit dual nationality. This was a direct response to concerns that Bouyeri's "dual identity" had resulted in his non-integration in the Netherlands.

Bouyeri had been born in the Netherlands and had lived a seemingly normal life: he had a good educational record and, until just a year or two before committing the murder, seemed to be integrated in society according to those who knew him. While Bouyeri could be considered an isolated individual "gone bad," there were too many overlaps with the discussion of integration writ large for the minister of immigration and integration not to be seen taking some action.

Since the murder, little direct new policy has been formulated. The thinking on prohibiting dual citizenship has apparently been reversed or at least halted.

Work on policies and laws that were already in the pipeline has continued. These include more stringent testing and penalties for immigrants on Dutch language and culture once they are in the country, and measures to ensure a person learns some Dutch in the home country before receiving a visa that leads to a residence permit.

All of these recent proposals have stalled because their foundations appear discriminatory, and thus contradictory to the Dutch constitution. Other measures have been put in place, including the establishment of an Integration Day and plans for public celebrations of naturalizations. These have a more positive than restrictive flavor to them, although they strike many as superficial and not really tackling the problems that clearly exist.

Life and Love Become More Difficult

One way the Netherlands is dealing with integration is by making it harder for some newcomers to obtain work and residence permits. People moving from an EU Member State to the Netherlands only need proof of medical insurance and a place to stay. However, for people coming from outside the EU, including those who enter to marry a Dutch citizen, there are many restrictions.

In order to receive a work permit, the employer must generally prove that the applicant's position was offered on the open market in the Netherlands, and that no Dutch citizen, legal resident, or EU citizen was available. Only if the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) is satisfied that no qualified worker in Europe can be found will a work permit be granted.

Recognizing the need for highly skilled workers, and finally bowing to pressure from the Dutch business community, a new law for "knowledge migrants" entered into force in October 2004.

Successful applicants, together with the Dutch employer for whom they will work, must prove that the job pays at least 45,000 euros per year (or 33,000 euros if the migrant is under 30). Professional sports players, religious teachers and workers, and prostitutes are, regardless of income level, excluded from this program. "Knowledge migrants" are permitted to bring over immediate family members, and their partners may also work.

By July 2005, 400 people had been approved; they are permitted to stay in the Netherlands for up to five years. Employers have complained that the IND is applying the rules too strictly. To date, a total of 450 employers have applied to, and been given permission to, sponsor "knowledge migrants." They include both Dutch and international companies with offices in the Netherlands, and they range from banks to consultancy bureaus, hospitals, and higher education establishments to engineering companies and pharmaceutical firms.

No limits or expectations have been set in terms of the numbers of "knowledge migrants" permitted to enter. As the opportunity is so new, it is difficult to assess the overall impact of this new category at the time of writing.

While "knowledge migrants" are allowed to have their family migrate with them, the general approach to family reunification and family formation has hardened. The origin of newer regulations lies in the fact that, as the 2002 Principles of Government Policy noted, 75 percent of the members of two of the three biggest immigrant groups (Turks and Moroccans) seek spouses from their or their parents' country of origin. The marriage-related restrictions are also an attempt to reduce overall immigration to the country.

In order to marry and settle with a non-EU citizen partner in the Netherlands, the Dutch national or resident must have an income of at least 120 percent of the minimum salary for the Netherlands (1,264.80 euros per month) and have an employment contract for at least one year. A naturalized Dutch citizen, or non-EU national residing in the Netherlands, must be over 21 to be permitted to bring a would-be spouse into the country.

While there have long been income requirements, the biggest restrictions imposed since 2002 involve the age requirements. These laws are aimed at immigrant groups, but Dutch nationals wishing to marry non-EU citizens are also feeling their impact. Immigration lawyers frequently advise them to move to another EU Member State, marry their spouse there, and return to the Netherlands at a later date if they wish to do so.

Since 1998, the spouse-to-be must wait outside of the Netherlands for a decision on their application for a residence permit. An exception is made for non-Dutch citizens from the U.S., Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or one of the EU Member States. While the IND is permitted to take up to two months to assess an application, the assessments have, in reality, taken six months or longer.

Meanwhile, a new law approved by the lower chamber of parliament in April 2005 would amend the 2000 Aliens Act by introducing language and culture testing prior to the granting of an entry visa for residence purposes; it is awaiting passage in the upper chamber of parliament, where there is concern that the changes would be discriminatory and thus unconstitutional.

This proposal builds on a May 2003 cabinet agreement that people who want to reside long-term in the Netherlands have to be active in society and learn Dutch, be aware of Dutch values, and live up to those values. It would primarily affect non-Dutch spouses-to-be. Those who would be exempted include European Economic Area (EEA) citizens as well as citizens of Switzerland, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

The proposed language and culture test would cover a very basic level of oral and aural communication only so that illiterate people can also take the test and pass. Applicants would be able to take the exam at Dutch embassies and consulates. The test would take less than an hour and would cost the applicant about 350 euros per attempt; it would be possible to retake the test. The government expects a test-preparation market to develop in the countries where there is demand, but it does not intend to play any role in teaching the language skills needed to pass the test.

Asylum seekers would not have to take a test before arriving in the Netherlands, nor would people who qualify for family reunification with an accepted asylum seeker. But both the successful asylum seeker and their family must take the integration test in the Netherlands after status is granted.

Returning Rejected Asylum Seekers

In 2003, the government decided to grant a one-off pardon to some 2,200 people whose asylum claims had been in determination procedures for more than five years as a result of administrative delays.

At the same time, the government announced a new policy to remove, over a period of three years, 26,000 rejected asylum seekers who were still in the Netherlands, subject to an initial review of their cases. They had been in the Netherlands for some five years, and had exhausted all their procedural opportunities to get their claims recognized. The largest groups came from Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Somalia.

Minister Verdonk faced a hefty parliamentary debate and much public scrutiny, as well as protests outside parliament, when she announced and defended her plan. NGOs created a website featuring brief films of the asylum seekers involved, making the 26,000 "faces" real.

It has become clear that several thousands of the total group will not be removed. Of the 8,636 cases the Ministry of Justice had reexamined by February 2005, 3,503 (41 percent) were granted status in the Netherlands. Of these, 1,949 previously rejected asylum seekers were granted status on the basis that they had a genuine claim to asylum after all; 14 were granted permission to stay on the basis that, through no fault of their own, they simply could not return to their country of origin.

Meanwhile 3,085 rejected asylum seekers (35 percent of the cases reexamined) had "departed to an unknown destination" — a euphemism that covers crossing the border into another EU Member State, to disappearing into illegality within the Netherlands leaving no sign behind. Minister Verdonk had stated to parliament that the authorities would seek to minimize such "departures" — but there was little they could do to prevent people who feared forced expulsion from taking matters into their own hands.

The remaining 2,030 had left the Netherlands: 1,511 had done so willingly, with assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM); 244 had been "removed"; and 275 had left under monitored conditions. Just over half of the first 8,636 people who would, according to government policy, be removed from the country had "left," but fewer than a quarter (2,030) were definitely known to have crossed a Dutch border; almost another quarter had been granted permission to remain after all.

Seeking Asylum and Other Opportunities for Refuge

During the latter half of the 1980s, the number of people seeking asylum in the Netherlands ranged between 3,500 and 14,000. By the early 1990s, these numbers were generally in the 20,000 to 30,000 range, and by the mid-1990s, they had climbed to over 40,000 per year. The numbers have been gradually falling since the end of the 1990s. In 2000 there were 43,560. This number had more than halved by 2002. In 2004, there were just 9,780 asylum requests in the Netherlands.

The vast majority of the asylum-seeking population lives in reception centers where they are free to come and go, and the system for processing claims links the claimant's stage in the procedure (e.g., "just arrived" or "claim in process") to the type of housing he or she is guaranteed. There is no detention as such. In principle, however, authorities know where people are based on their assigned reception center. Nongovernmental representatives, lawyers, and the IND have access to asylum seekers. Similarly, asylum seekers have access to those who can assist them through these centers.

This system of reception has been praised by many and criticized by some. The critics are increasingly vocal, as a 2003 Human Rights Watch report demonstrates. Critics have argued that the system fosters a culture of dependency, particularly since asylum seekers have not been allowed to work for more than an average of 12 weeks per year, depending on the stage in the process. Asylum seekers, having arrived from traumatic situations, often require significant medical and psychiatric help. In addition, many asylum seekers are reluctant to move out of the reception center system, even when their claim has been accepted and their formal residency has ended.

Because the number of asylum applications has fallen so rapidly, the governmental body responsible for the reception facilities is facing drastic budget cuts; it needs to expand its range of tasks or lose personnel and facilities. The nongovernmental Dutch Refugee Council is in a similar situation.

Overflowing reception centers led to a real crisis in the Dutch system in the late 1990s. This was made even more acute by the fact that people could appeal the granting of temporary protection, for example, and seek a fuller refugee status. The Aliens Law of 2000, which entered into force in April 2001, brought about a number of changes.

For asylum seekers, the most significant of these changes is the creation of a "single" status in the Netherlands. Asylum applicants can be granted a single form of temporary status for one year (renewable twice) if they fulfill one of the following criteria:

  • They are a "Convention refugee" (someone with objective reasons to claim that he or she will face genuine risk if returned — risk of torture, inhumane or cruel treatment or punishment);
  • They are a person who, for humanitarian reasons (such as, but not exclusively, a violent widespread conflict), has fled the situation in their country of origin;
  • They are the spouse or minor child of someone of the same nationality who is granted status in the Netherlands on one of the above grounds, and who has traveled with or followed the main applicant within a period that does not exceed three months;
  • They are the dependent partner or child under 18 of the person recognized (Article 29, Dutch Aliens Law 2000).

The status of those fulfilling these criteria is converted to that of permanent resident if, at the end of the three years with temporary status, return to the country of origin proves impossible. The government has also committed to a maximum six-month processing period to assess each claim under normal circumstances.

This two-step acceptance — first as a temporary "refugee" and then as a permanent resident — means that, in practice, no one is protected under the UN's 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as originally conceived. The status granted is not open-ended, as convention status would be expected to be, and there is no formal granting of "refugee status" or the travel documents accompanying that status.

In part to counter the appearance of a totally restrictive approach to refugees, from late 2004 onwards, the Netherlands reinvigorated its flagging refugee resettlement program. For several years, the program quota of 500 had not been met. Just 100 to 200 refugees had been arriving each year.

No selection missions had visited regions of initial asylum for refugees, and all decisions had been based solely on paperwork provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Many cases had been denied. Some of them would have been accepted, critics thought, if only a decision-maker had actually met the refugees in question.

In October 2004, the first selection mission in several years went to Uganda. The first group of some 56 refugees arrived in the Netherlands in January 2005. A second mission selected Colombian refugees soon thereafter. More missions are planned.

The revamped program is receiving much interest from NGOs and other groups, which were once skeptical about resettlement. It is also offering an opportunity for reemployment of reception facilities and their staff. The initial planning is short-term, and efforts are being made within the Justice Ministry as well as in the nongovernmental sector to firmly reestablish what had been a traditional humanitarian entry route.

Conclusion

The issue of integration is one of the highest priorities on the Dutch political agenda, particularly since the murder of Theo van Gogh. So long as politicians sense a public perception of existing immigrants as far from fully integrated, the tendency to keep newcomers out will remain.

Asylum arrivals have dropped significantly. There were 9,800 arrivals in 2004 compared to 43,895 in 2000. The atmosphere seems increasingly unwelcoming. Tolerance is clearly showing its limits.

Yet opposition to the removal of the 26,000 rejected asylum seekers and increasing support for resettlement are small indications that the Dutch population is not united behind the apparent new anti-immigrant tendency, even if there is widespread agreement that the multicultural approach of the past has failed both the Netherlands and its immigrants.

Sources:

www.26000gezichten.nl

Centraal Bureau voor de Statistieken (Central Statistical Office), Persbericht: Minder immigranten dan emigranten [Press release: fewer immigrants than emigrants], 30 July 2003.

Centraal Bureau voor de Statistieken (Central Statistical Office) Statline, Tabel: Bevolking per maand, kwartaal en jaar [Statline, Table: Population, per month, quarter and year] Available online.

Human Rights Watch, Fleeting Refuge: the triumph of efficiency over protection in Dutch Asylum Policy, New York, Vol. 15, No.3 (D) – April 2003

Immigratie en Naturalisatie Dienst (Immigration and Naturalisation Service, Cijfers [Numbers] Available online.

Kirsty Lang, 'At home with Professor Pim', 4 May 2002. BBC Online

Jan Lucassen and Rinus Penninx, Newcomers: immigrants and their descendents in the Netherlands 1550-1995 (Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis, 1997).

Meedoen, meer werk, minder regels: hoofdlijnenakkoord voor het kabinet CDA, VVD en D66 [Participation, job creation, de-regulation: principle agreement for a CDA, VVD and D66 cabinet] 16 May 2003 cited above as 'Governing Agreement'.

Ministerie van Justitie, Kritiek Ombudsman op vreemdelingendiensten [Criticism by the Ombudsman of Immigration/Foreigners services] June 11 2003

National Ombudsman, Openbaar rapport: vreemdelingendienst [Public Report on Immigration/Foreigners services] (10 June 2003) 2003/160

Paul Scheffer, 'Het Multiculturele Drama' [The Multicultural Drama], NRC Handelsblad (29 January 2000)

Joanne van Selm, 'Asylum in the Netherlands: a hazy shade of purple', Journal of Refugee Studies Vol13. No.1 2000.

United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects, Population database

Hans Vermeulen and Rinus Penninx (eds.), Immigrant Integration: The Dutch Case, Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis, 2000.

VluchtelingenWerk Nederland, Geen Pardon maar Terugkeer? Een evaluatie van de uitvoering van de Pardonregeling en het Terugkeerbeleid voor uitgeproceerde asielzoekers, February 2005 (Dutch Refugee Council, No Pardon just Return? An evaluation of the implementation of the Pardon Rule and the Return Policy for rejected asylum seekers) Available online.

Werken aan vertrouwen, een kwestie van aanpakken: strategisch akkoord voor kabinet CDA, LPF, VVD [Enhancing confidence, getting it done: strategic accord for the CDA, LPF, VVD cabinet] (3 July 2002) cited above as Principles of Government Policy

Wet van 23 november 2000 tot algehele herziening van de Vreemdelingenwet (Vreemdelingenwet 2000) [Law of 23 November 2000 for the general revision of the Aliens Law (Aliens Law 2000) Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden Number 495 (7 December 2000) [Official State Journal of the Kingdom of the Netherlands].

(All Dutch titles translated by the author)