The myths and its choice of words
Checks and Balances, Economy and free migration
Take a look at yourself, Multi-cultural society?
Get going, In a new building
discussion about migration 1
discussion about migration 2
This article was published in a reader, used in a national discussion known as 'the Third Chamber'. The first and second chamber are the Dutch Senate and House of Parliament. The Third Chamber was an initiative of extraparliamentary groups, to discuss about and link up four big issues within the (radi- cal) left movement in the Netherlands: migration, environment, welfare state and democracy. We were one of the groups that worked together to organise the meeting, and also one the groups that produced this article. On the meeting there were over 300 participants. One of the results have been that now there are four regional 'Third Chamber' initiatives.
EnvironmentalThe onslaught on our environment is much less a question of the population increase, as it is of waste and non-durability. The manure surplus for instance poses a far more real environ- mental threat. Environmental factors are not to be contained through national borders. National borders are human, artifi- cial creations.
Lack of space
In january, '94, the Zadelhoff agency predicted that during the same year, the problem of vacancy in Dutch office buil- dings would further expand to 2.7 million square meters (NRC newspaper, feb. 3rd, '94). If it were publicized tomorrow that the United Nations had decided to move to "de Randstad", the West Netherlands urban conglomerate, requesting facilities for its thousands of employees, there'd be no question of stating that we are "full". On the contrary, they'd be virtually hailed in. The debate of whether "the Netherlands are over- crowded" is defined by the matter of national borders. Envi- ronmental action groups have developed a rather different concept: that of the applicability of environmental space - three quarters of the sum total of which appear to be reserved for one quarter of the world population.
Rate of acceptance
Any society's rate of acceptance with regard to the number of allowable migrants is naturally dependent on official policies and current opinions. Until a few years ago, noone had even bothered with illegal immigrants - of which there were, howe- ver, plenty. There has, for instance, always been the matter of large numbers of illegal European immigrants (specifically from Great Britain). In fact, few ever observed this as a problematic situation. It is, rather, a case of politicians creating the problem through numerous statements. Statements depicting mi- grants, especially illegal immigrants, as the outside danger undermining our society. It naturally follows that there must be a firm response. Concluding, let us state that, instead of the development of a policy based primarily on the premises of the permanence of migration flows towards Europe, and the relation of that migration to economical, political and ecological factors which demand resolution, quite the contrary is at hand. Migra- tion is viewed as an isolated case, a problem in its own right. A problem to Europe that is, to be combated with any means at our disposal. This policy, combined with the state- ments of politicians in defence of it, has accelerated the spread of racist prejudice amongst the population.
Consequences of Dutch policy
The question of whether the Netherlands are "full" or not is irrelevant, since the answer to it is irrelevant. All the world is "full", and there is little to assume that this fullness should bypass the Netherlands unnoticed. Furthermore, the question of whether the Netherlands be declared "full" or not has little to do with the actual mass of migratory flows to those Netherlands. Even if the Dutch government - in answer to said "fullness" - should further restrict its migration policies, this will not deter people from coming. Measures to stop migration are fruitless. Thick apparatuses such as the Dutch state will never match people's infinite creativity when it comes to finding new loopholes in the law. Perhaps the flow may be somewhat curbed; however, the price paid for this impediment by both the migrants and Dutch socie- ty as a whole is inordinately high. Restrictive measures will render more and more migratory channels subject to "organised crime", as the roads formerly open to migrants of their own accord are increasingly debar- red. Future migrants will be driven into the wide open arms of "organised crime", demanding high fees for offering them a last resort to entrance routes. Potential migrants will wil- lingly pay growing rates, forced by the pressure and dream of migration. We need only to think here of media images of what migrants worldwide are willing to cope with (brittle boats, rat-infested pipings, etc.) Measures taken against it will only raise the costs of any intended migration. As a result, the migration mafia will find it increasingly profitable to bribe Dutch citizens involved in the allowance of foreigners. Already, countless Dutch pas- sports disappear yearly prior to distribution, open to regist- ration through corrupt officials. The increasing rates are likely to tempt an increasing number of people. The state is perverting its own system. More and more, the migration mafia will start to resemble that of illegal narcotics. More re- strictive immigrati- on policies will only force illegal immigrants into the margins of society, where they'll have no option but to further have themselves exploited in increasin- gly appalling conditions, in order to survive. Illegal labour = cheap labour and thus, despite the risks, illegal immigrants will remain attractive for Dutch employers. None of this will ever rid us of illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants cannot be put off by denying them basic rights such as health care and education, since their situation at home was far worse to begin with. Still more restrictive immigration policies not only serve to worsen the immigrants' lives, they affect the whole of Dutch society. Through them, we are faced with "Ame- rican situations".
In the old housing districts, raids will become the order of the day. Besides alienated pensioners lying dead for weeks, there'll be more and more cases of dead illegals who died simply because they couldn't afford to see a doctor. Children of illegal immigrants collected at school by the registration office (good luck explaining them away to your kid son or daughter!), or from sweatshops where they work twelve hours a day. More beggars and homeless in the streets. More tenements of illegal immigrants, jam-packed like sardines in a tin. The boarding up of more and more of the routes out of illegality will turn a small section of the migrants into desperadoes, desperate at all costs to make what they can from their stay. They have nothing to lose. This development may already be observed in small gangs of North African boys in the major cities. A more restrictive immigration policy strengthens the social triage in our own society. Through it, society becomes more ruthless, violent, and corrupt. There can be no question of a choice of whether the Netherlands are full or not. The migrants arrive regardless. The question, rather, is how to deal with the fact. Put simply, it is a matter of providing a Somali with a shelter - or finding him on your doorstep one sunny morning.
Alternate policies (global-human rights)
Long-term solutions to the question of migration can only derive from abolition of the discrepancy between the rich and poor through actual democratization. Migration is a question of poverty before anything else. There are four ways in which poverty may be reduced:
- money earned by the rich, "perforce" ends up with the poor
- economical market forces
- provision of the means for economic autonomy
- development aid
The first method (known as "trickle down") has next to no effect on the prevention of poverty; nor will the current market system eliminate poverty. The most effective means of combating poverty is through: education and the conveyance of property and assets through aid (so-called "endowments"). Besides direct emergency aid, there is the need for provision of the means for economical development of local communities based on economic independence. Export subsidies and import levies in the West are to be abandoned. The market rates of resources and agricultural produce must be fixed so as to ensure fair wages and reasonable working hours and conditions. Human rights treaties and those as agreed upon by the ILO are to be actively complied with on the level of bilateral econo- mic affairs, and subject to inspecti- on through reports by local trade unions, women's organisations and other NGO's. Room for local development in third world countries must be further enhanced through suspension of debts and the improve- ment through aid of local infrastruc- ture, education, and production of primary necessities such as nutrition and hou- sing.
Local democratic NGO's, trade unions and women's organisations are to serve a key role in this development, in order to prevent select cliques from re-monopolising life opportuni- ties. This further implies that Western NGO's are to have substantial influence on the distribution and allotment of, and control over, the means reserved for third world develop- ment. A multiple of the current budget (1% of the GNP) must be reserved for room for development aid. The arms industry and trade are to be reduced. Obsolete weapons and arms systems in the West are to be immediately destroyed, not exported. Refugees of war and environmental disasters are to be provided with adequate shelter in their regions of origin. People must have a free say in whether to remain in said regions or not. "Freedom" here implies there must be a choice between real options. Said refugee centers are to be mainly financed by the affluent nations. They may not be cut down on development aid funds. International networks of NGO's on issues such as human rights are to be initiated and extended. They are to keep their finger on existing and potential con- flicts. This information will allow them to put political pressure on governments and to instigate their own actions, such as information campaigns or consumer boycotts. The Netherlands Refugees must be allowed without exception. In the case of doubt concerning the backgrounds of flight, the refu- gee must be given the benefit of the doubt and should not, as in current practice, be regarded as suspect. Better to grant a refugee status to a certain percentage unjustly, than to unjustly disallow it and send them off.
Both legal and illegal migrants must, when voluntarily deci- ding to return to their places of origin, be given support in doing so. Repatriating migrants are to be given a prospect in their own countries or regions through seed money and/or education.
Family reunification or formation are not to be subjected to any restrictions. Anyone resident in the Netherlands is entit- led to basic facilities, regardless of their legal status. Should the authorities fail to enhance such rights, support groups and the general population are to create networks providing these facilities. Unprecedented spending cuts await us over the coming years. Simultaneously, the pressure of migration may be expected to increase. The victims of spending cuts are pitted against victims of repression and exploitation abroad. Yet the causes underlying both kinds of misery are often the same. A national redistribution of Dutch assets is necessary, if we are to have a compassionate migration policy.
There is, at the present phase, hardly a question of democra- tic policymaking on migration in Europe. At the same time, there is almost no democratic control over the operations of multinational companies, who are an important factor in unde- sirable developments in the countries of migration. Environ- mental, third world and refugees' support groups must combine forces in order to find their own means of generating politi- cal power and democratising society. Points of debate 1a As long as world trade fails to provide equal development opportunities for all countries, migration is not to be re- stricted under any circumstances. 1b Reduction of migration to Europe and/or the Netherlands is inevitable. Measu- res such as annual quota must of necessity be taken. 2 Increasing migration means extra costs. At present, these are mainly transferred to the underprivileged sectors of society. Thus, migrants are pitted against sections such as welfare reci- pients. The struggle for a fair international distribution of assets has to be coupled with that on a national level. 3 The debate as to (compulsory) migration and its solutions is not to take place on a national, nor even European, but on a global level. This means that third world countries must be involved. 4 Migration cannot be viewed in isolation from Third World issues, environmental destruction, etcetera. Therefore it is necessary that the refugees and illegal immigrants' support movement should operate in close alliance with other social movements, such as third world and environmental move- ments, welfare recipients' support groups, and so forth. 5 There are positive aspects involved in migration. Migration serves to level national barriers, and provides for a multiple cultural exchange. In this respect, it represents an improve- ment of both the Dutch' and the migrants' lives.