Saturday, 18 June 2011
Policies supporting ethnic minorities are to be a thing of the past in the Netherlands. In the future, every migrant will have to take responsibility for his or her own integration, Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner has said in a letter to the parliament, everybody should embrace Dutch values.

Integration in Holland

Through the centuries, immigrants have come to live in the Netherlands and have assimilated to a great extent.

Portuguese Jews of the 15th century, European-Indonesian migrants who came after World War Two are examples. They learned the Dutch language and customs and passed these on to their children. Not only did they transform themselves, they also changed the society around them, influencing the speech, cuisine and many other aspects of Dutch culture. As this transformation was happening, few took notice.

Today this is very different. As immigrants adapt to Dutch society, the process is being studied as if under a microscope. Academic researchers, politicians and journalists are continuously observing and commenting on integration.

Some paint a negative picture of today's immigrant: preferring the burqa to blue jeans, couscous to cabbage and potatoes. Unwilling or unable to learn Dutch, taking little on board and offering little in return to the culture.

Naturally this is a narrow view, though it's clear the differences between Dutch and immigrant cultures are a source of conflict. Integration can be a painful - and painfully slow - process. As it continues, Radio Netherlands Worldwide explores some of the problems encountered, and the solutions offered, on the path to integration.

The opposition is calling this change of direction by government “a historic error”. The Labour Party and democrat party D66 fear that people will fall by the wayside if various immigrant groups are not targeted.

Labour Party MP Martijn van Dam points out the specific problems there are with Moroccan boys who score higher than average when it comes to unsocial or criminal behaviour.

“I cannot imagine that the other parties would want these problems to be neglected.”

Ethnicity
But Minister Donner wants to put an end to policies for target groups. No more special treatment for Antilleans, Turks, Moroccans and other minorities. This cabinet thinks it’s up to migrants themselves to become useful members of society. Mr Donner,

“We think it’s the responsibility of the people themselves. We shouldn’t continue with policies aimed at specific target groups and subsidise all kinds of measures, because that way you actually maintain these groups.”

Minister Donner believes that labour, education and housing policies give every citizen plenty of opportunity to lead an independent life regardless of their background. Ethnicity should not be taken into consideration when it comes to tackling anti-social or criminal behaviour.

The minister is also working on a proposal to make it possible to prosecute for forced marriages. And as of 1 January 2013, he wants a ban on burkas or other garments covering the face in public.

Gesture to the Freedom Party
The government no longer believes it’s its duty to help migrants to integrate into society. As a result, the cabinet is distancing itself from the multicultural society as we know it.

It is a gesture by Minister Donner to Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration party, which supports the current minority government in parliament.

In the future, Dutch norms and values should be at the heart of integration and the Dutch government wants to see more initiative from migrants themselves. Minister Donner,

“If people want to live here for a long time it is no longer a matter of ‘learning Dutch and then you know how things are done here’. We want to feel that we are at home here. We also want other people who want to be part of this, to be able to make their home here, by contributing.”

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