Netherlands: Kick out the government not the refugees

The Dutch right wing coalition government plans to soon start deporting “failed asylum-seekers”. But protests are springing up across the Netherlands, and a national demonstration is set for 10 April.

Over the next thre years, the government aims to expel 26,000 people. By taking this action, the coalition parties – the CDA (Christian Democrats), VVD (right wing liberals) and D66 (‘left wing’ liberals), supported by LPF (List Pim Fortuyn) and SGP (Christian fundamentalists) – are ignoring the angry and growing protests in society against this inhumane policy. They give full support to Rita Verdonk, the Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister, and a member of the VVD.

In parliament, the social democrats of the PvdA, the Green-Left and the Socialist Party have criticised the plans of the governement. This is, of course, to be welcomed, but it should not be forgotten that this governement is doing what the ‘purple government’, made up of the VVD, D66 and the social democratic PvdA planned in the past.

‘Extreme cases’

Under pressure to ‘soften’ their draconian immigration policy, the coalition government promised to take into account “extreme cases” and said that, for the moment, they will not break-up families. But the reality is that entire families will be expelled, despite many having lived in the Netherlands for five years, and with many children of these families settled in schools. At any moment the children of refugees can be arrested and deported with their parents, brothers and sisters.

The dangerous situation that many refugees could be returned to is sometimes even acknowledged by government agencies. To take one example. An Afghan refugee who fled to the Netherlands went back to Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban regime. He settled in the capital, Kabul, where he thought there was some semblance of order. But he was robbed by the police in a zone controlled by Dutch soldiers. He was then given permission to return to the Netherlands and permited to stay. In doing so, the Dutch government recognises that the part of Afghanistan that is controlled by the Dutch military is still not safe.

Millions looking for a better life

As long as global capitalism is depriving half of the world’s population proper living conditions, millions will look abroad for a better life for themselves and their childeren. Although they are not welcomed by Western governments, it is an open secret that the bosses are very eager to use under-paid and undocumented labour. This is clearly seen in the agricultural sector.

The populist, right wing politician Pim Fortuyn, who was shot dead in 2002, put asylum policy high up on the political agenda. He was able to campaign on the fears and grievances of many Dutch working people, who face worsening living conditions. The right wing government of Jan Peter Balkenende is now putting into practice the plans of Fortuyn: a shameful deportation policy is the result. Respected organisations like Human Rights Watch, and the refugee arm of the UN, have both condemned the Dutch government’s plans as unlawful and inhuman.

The CWI in the Netherlands, Offensief, calls for resistance to the asylum policies of the government. Deportations are something that many Dutch people thought only belonged to films about the Second World War [when many Jews were deported from the Netherlands to Nazi concentration camps], and nothing to do with the ‘modern’ Netherlands of 2004.

Facts and figures about immigration

In 2001, only 219 asylum seekers were granted permanent residence in the Netherlands: the lowest figure in all European states (In 1999, around 9,000 asylum seekers were granted refugee status). In other words, only 0.6% of asylum seekers received a residence permit in 2001.

Over the last three years the number of requests for asylum in the Netherlands decreased drastically. The figures are lower than in Belgium, Germany and Italy (where the extreme-right is in the government)

Between 1995 and 2000, according to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, more people were leaving the Netherlands than that were entering.

In 2001, according the the UN, there were in the whole world 23 million refugees. In 2002, the figure had risen to 35 million, according to the United States Committee for Refugees. Only 1,1 % fled to the EU. In fact, the vast majority of refugees are either internally displaced, or flee to neighbouring states, that are usually poor and without adequate resources.

Solidarity with asylum-seekers

Many people across the Netherlands have shown their solidarity with the asylum-seekers threatened with deportation.The many protests that have already taken place, and which are rooted in the local communities, can devolop into mass action. Pupils, church groups, and local committes of residents stook initiatives in defending ‘their’asylum-seekers. They protest, but also take concrete initiatives to stop the deportations. They support the ‘illegal people’ by offering them ‘underground’ shelter, jobs and medical care.

The CWI has a record of taking action to defend refugees’ rights. In 2002, there were protests at the Australian refugee camp at Woomera, where refugees were held in the middle of the desert. More that 1,000 demonstrators travelled for hours by bus and protested peacefully in front of the gates of the camp. During the protests some of the refugees broke out. Many of them were soon caught. However, some were given shelter by our anti-government protesters, including by members of the Australian Socialist Party (CWI section in Australia). They are still free.

While taking these sorts of actions, it is also vital that a programme is put forward that can answer the lies and propoganda of the government and also answer the fears and grievances of Dutch working people, who face big social cuts. Offensief opposes the bill and all racist immigration policies, and calls for a mass campaign, uniting immigrants and Dutch workers, to oppose the government’s bill and the social cuts. This should include unions organising immigrant workers.

It is essential that a united struggle also fights for jobs for all, for a huge increase in funding to the welfare state, and for decent and affordable housing.

Offensief members will be campaigning for and taking part in a national demonstration on 10 April against the government’s deportations.

This is a translation of an article that will appear in the next issue of Offensief, paper of the cwi in the Netherlands.

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February 2004