Illegalized migrants in the Netherlands

This article written by the Autonoom Centrum was published in the book
'Without papers in Europe'. The book deals with the situation of
illegalized refugees and migrants in various European countries. It is
concerned with the circumstances surrounding their entry and residence,
attempts at self-organization, and support-projects. The contribution of
the Autonoom Centrum to the book contains a brief overview of migration to
the Netherlands over the last 40 years, the first restrictions for
refugees, the developments since the Schengen Agreement, strategies of
survival for illegalized migrants, latest developments in legislation and
resistance against the illegalization of migrants.
The book was edited by 'Kein mensch ist illegal', c/o
Forschungsgesellschaft Flucht und Migration e.V., Gneisenaustrasse 2a I D -
10961 Berlin, Germany.

In the last decade the Netherlands have been confronted with a
problem that sofar seemed to be considered as an American-
Mexican phenomena: 'illegal' migrants and illegalization of
refugees and other migrants. However, the phenomena in itself
is not new. What is new is the scale of illegalization and the
reaction in society to it.

A small step into history

Illegal migrants have been present in Dutch society for a long
time. The first bigger group of illegalized migrants became
known during the sixties. In the decade before and during the
sixties, a lot of labour migrants were invited to come to the
Netherlands. They were invited for work that Dutch people did
not want to do: heavy labour in industrial and agricultural
companies, necessary to build up the country again after the
devastating World War II. In most cases it was low skilled
labour. Educated people were not hired at the special offices
that were opened in Turkye and Marocco. The labourers were not
expected to stay the rest of their lives in the Netherlands;
they were called 'gastarbeider': 'guest labourers'. During the
fifties they were housed in camps at the compounds of the
factory they were working for. In the sixties it became clear
that they were not planning to leave; more and more relatives
migrated to the Netherlands in programs of family reunificati-
on. The growing awareness that they were here to stay led to
the first restrictions in migration policy. Maybe it is better
to speak of the construction of a migration policy: in the
fifties there was no real policy. People were invited to come,
because they were needed as labourers or because of histori-
cally determined reasons (for example Moluccans who were
temporary housed in WWII concentration camps, waiting for the
promised independance of the Moluccas that never came).

At the end of the sixties it became quit clear that the invi-
ted migrants would not leave again. Laws were changed to make
labour migrantion and family reunification more difficult. It
only led to a shift in legal grounds on which one could obtain
a permit to stay: the number of people applying for asylum
stated to rise slowly. Until then there was no need to ask for
asylum if one was politically persued in the country of ori-
ging, because it was relatively easy to obtain a labour per-
mit. The more restricted rules led to a growth in the number
of people that came on a tourist visum and decided never to
leave again. They found work, they reunited illegally with
their famlies. During the seventies there were smaller groups
that were legalized after some years of presence in Dutch
society. A big group of migrants came after the independence
of Surinam, a former Dutch colony. Surinams got the change to
obtain the Dutch nationality. Nowadays there are as much
Surinams in the Netherlands as there are in Surinam.

Restrictions for refugees

A first major change in migration policy took place at the
beginning of the eighties. It became official government
policy that the Netherlands were no immigration land. From the
start this was contrary to the daily practice. The economical
crisis at the end of the seventies was certainly due to this
change in policy. However, in the same period bigger groups of
illegalized migrants were legalized. This stopped at the end
of the eighties when a more and more restrictive policy was

The growing number of people that asked for asylum caused
distress in political areas. It was clear that the number of
refugees was growing, not only because of conflicts arising
from the end of the 'Cold War' (which had been very warm in
the South), but also because of growing mobility: it was
simply easier to get to the West. The first thing that happe-
ned was to change the central reception of refugees. Ground
for that was the growing number of Tamil refugees from Sri
Lanka. Instead of housing them in average houses, they were
put in special camps with a 'bed, bread and water' reception
only. The violent protests of Tamils against it (during plan-
ned actions they burned down some of the camps the were stay-
ing in) shocked the Dutch society. A complete new system of
eception was constructed. The new reception was aimed at
discouraging the refugees that were already here, in the hope
they would war fellow-country(wo)men not to come to the Ne-
therlands. Until now it is usual to stay in a camp for three
or four years, waiting for a decision on an asylum request,
with nothing to do but watching TV or playing table tennis.
More and more refugees decided not to wait for the decision
and tried to find their own way in society by working.
New legislation since the end of the eighties only aimed at
diminihing the possibilities of surviving in society. The
introduction of a social-fiscal number in 1991 was meant to
shut migrants without papers off of legal ways to make a
living. This sofi-number was followed by other legal measures
to make live to those migrants miserable: identification
obligations, more street controls and control at work, linking
of databases to trace 'illegals' and new laws in order to keep
migrants out. The measures were generally accepted as 'neces-
sary to fight migration'.
In spite of all measures the number of people applying for
asylum only grew - up to 50.000 last year.

Illegalisation of refugees

A considerable number of illegalised migrants is formed by the
group of refugees outside the legal procedures. They did not
get access to the asylum procedure (safe country of origin,
ondocumented, 'asylum shopping','wafer-thin asylum story'
etc.)or they were not recognised as a refugee and were not
admitted on humanitarian grounds. Over the years 1990-1997 20%
of the asylum requests resulted in a refugee status, 30% in a
permit on humanitarian grounds and 45% in an order to leave
the country. Over the years 1994/1995 annually 3.000 refugees
have actually been deported (under guidance of border police);
2.000 have left 'under supervision' (which means they have
been dropped at a trainstation near the border with a ticket
to Belgium or Germany - no one controls if they really get on
the train); 9.000 were not found when the foreign police
checked the address they were staying.
Central in the official policy towards rejected refugees is
the starting point that the refugee him/herselve is responsa
ble for his/her return: they came by themselves and can leave
by themselves. There is a special program in which specific
groups of rejected refugees can get help from the IOM to
return, but hardly any of them use the program.
Those rejected are expected to cooperate in their 'return'.
Those who refuse to cooperate are - if not detained - dumped
in the street with the order to leave the country within 48
hours. This means that refugees who refuse to cooperate in
their own return are completely excluded from all forms of
reception in the Netherlands.
Most refugees do not wait for being dumped or deported: they
go into hiding. They do not report themselves at the foreign
police anymore and usually leave the house or reception centre
they were living in. In 60% of the cases in which the foreign
police controls addresses to take refugees away for deportati
ons, the refugees have already left. In the official figures
they are counted as 'expelled', but it is very likely that
they are still in the Netherlands. The number of refugees
being 'expelled' in this way is growing rapidly.
A smaller group of refugees who have been illegalised by the
government is the group that can not be deported for 'techni
cal' or 'policy-related' reasons: refugees from countries with
no central administration, from countries that refuse to take
back their natives, or from countries with no administrative
ties to the Netherlands (e.g. China, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libe
ria, Angola and stateless Palestines). 6% of all rejected
refugees for those reasons can not be expelled and will final
ly be dumped in the street.

New developments

Apart from the arrival of migrants asking for asylum, there is
a relatively new development in migration. More and more
migrants do not apply for asylum anymore; they succeed to come
in without being registered. Another group that is growing in
number rapidly is the group that is deliberately illegalized
by the government. It consists of refugees at the end of their
legal procedure and who are send out of the central reception
centres and are ordered to leave the Netherlands within 48
hours. Most can't leave and are forced into illegality. A
research project by the University of Utrecht that was publis-
hed in 1998 estimated the number of illegalized migrants
around 40.000. This university has been doing research into
the illegalized population for some years now. Earlier they
did research into parts of the labour and housing market and
the access of public services for illegalized migrants. The
number of 40.000 was a result of an investigation by the
university to the relation between (specific forms of) crime
and illegality. It was the first scientific research to the
number of illegalized migrants. The method used is the same
method that scientist use to count the number of deers in a
forest; in this case all basic figures came from police re-
cords over 1995 and 1996.
The number of 40.000 is far less than the governments etsima-
tion of over a 100.000. Of course, the number of 40.000 will
have been risen by now.

Some developments since 1985

When the number of refugees started rising from the beginning
of the eighties, there was already a slight restriction within
the migration policy. The real change however came after 1985,
due to the talks on the Schengen Agreement. The possibility of
this agreement led to some political panic in the Netherlands.
There was a fear of other Europeans coming to the Netherlands
to 'profit from social services and benefits', but above all
there was the fear that the number of migrants would rise as
soon as the internal borders would disappear. In 1989 a speci
al commision was founded to investigate what measures could be
taken for a more effective control over 'aliens' when the
bordercontrols would have been abolished. The commission came
with its conclusion in 1991. The commission adviced (amongst
- to carry out controls in a more adminstrative way, at the
desks of those institiutions in charge of the execution of
social security regulations;
- to introduce a 'restricted form' of identification require
- to come with new legislation to exclude illegalized migrants
from the social security system;
- more active control behind the borders, especially in bigger
cities, and therefore more man-power for aliens police and
military police.

Controlling migrants in a more administrative way required a
good administration, something that the government had been
working on since the beginning of the eighties. There were two
important administrative developments. The first was the
computerisation of the register of population into the 'Muni
cipal Base Administration personal data' (abbr. in Dutch
'GBA'), the second was the computerisation of the registers of
the aliens police into the 'Aliens Administration System'
(abbr. 'VAS'). In 1991 it was decided to link up the two
systems. It would take three years to make the linking up

A third very important development was that the Dutch 'social-
fiscal number' (sofi-number, a social security number) became
more and more in use as a general identity number in all kind
of registers. Until November 1st,1991, it was possible to
obtain the sofi-number by simply identifying onesself at the
tax-collector's office with a passport. The sofi-number made
it possible to find legal work. Legal work made it possible to
pay taxes and social security contributions. In that way
illegalised migrants could live an almost legal life. The fact
that they payed taxes and contributions made it possible for
them to collect unemployment benefits, childrens allowance
In November 1991 it became impossible to obtain a number
without interference of the foreign police. This meant the
first actual restriction of access to the formal labour market
for illegalized migrants. The second restriction followed in
1992, after a plane crash in a densily populated area in
Amsterdam. The local authorities were convinced that many
illegalized migrants were living in the appartment blocks that
were destroyed at the crash, they feared over 200 people
dead. From that moment om it was also impossible to register
at the local register of population without permission of the
aliens police. Other cities decided to do the same. This
measure made it almost impossible to become registered, and
therefore restricted access to for example the cheaper part of
the housing market, for which it is absolutelyu necessary to
be registered.

In 1994 an Identification Law came in to force. The law intro
duced identification requirements in 25 different other laws
(for example fiscal and social security laws). Moreover, the
law deternined what kind of identification papers were legally
accepted. The law practically aimed at restricting illegal
labour and denying 'new' illegalized migrants access to social
security. Psychologically it was meant to prepare the Dutch of
other laws to come. In the same year a new Aliens Act came
into power and the linking between GBA and VAS was operative.
Now that the administrative conditions were fulfilled, the way
was paved for what the government would later refer to as the
capstone of a restrictive migration policy: the Linking Act.
The Linking Act, that came into force in 1998, is a law that
excludes illegalized migrants (and in the future possibly also
legal migrants) from social security almost completely. In the
first draft of the law it was proposed to exclude all migrants
without a socalled 'perfect residence permit', which would
have meant the majority of all refugees that came to the
Netherlands over the last 5 years, and other legal migrants in
some kind of legal procedure waiting for a final decision.
After a lot of protest the draft was changed. The law that
came into force on July 1st 1998 excludes migrants without any
residence permit, and differentiates the others in about 18
categories: depending on their kind of permit they will have
no, some or ordinary access to social security provisions. The
Linking Act (that links the access to social security to the
residence permits of the applier) is being executed by all
kind of civil servants, local authorities, schools, health
insurance companies etc.. All insitutions have to consult the
GAB/VAS regularly to check the status of appliers and clients.
Changes in status are automaticcaly exchanged. All together a
system has been constructed that could be referred to as an
administrative apartheid system.

Strategies of survival

The Linking Act, together with the implementation of compute
rised personal data registrations, have sealed off most forms
of formal strategies to survive for illegalised migrants.
Those forms were already restricted by other measures - espe
cially the introduction of the status check when applying for
a sofinumber - but even now there are illegalized migrants
who can survive in formal structures. However, those structu
res lost their legal character. The Linking Act does not make
an end to the twilight zone between legal and illegal structu
res, but other laws - such as the identification rquirements -
try to do so.
The Linking Act made an end to the phenomena that illegalized
migrants could live a 'legal life'. The law therefore also had
unexpected opponents. One of them was the Amsterdam police:
they feared that relatively open and transparent migrant
communities would seclude themselves from society and that
illegalized migrants would be forced into complete illegality
- not open nor transparent.
In the grey area between completely legal and completely
illegal still a lot is possible, in spite of attempts by the
government to make the distinction between legal and illegal
complete. It is, for example, still possible to 'lend' your
sofinumber to someone else; it is possible to obtain valid
documents, but prices have risen; there are still employers
that don't ask for identification papers - the biggest right
wing news paper in the Netherlands, 'de Telegfraaf', would not
be spread if there were no illegalized migrants willing to do
so early in the morning. However, those forms of survival can
not be refered to as 'formal'. Formal strategies, leaving
aside some exceptions, are history.

Undocumented migrants are definitely placed outside the formal
legal structures. They form a mobile and heterogeneous group
of migrants with an inferior status because they are classi
fied as illegal and therefore are excluded from the formal
labour market and the welfare state. They can't fully base
their existance on the sale of their labour and can't call for
the social rights that the welfare state offers. At the same
time, their illegal status leads to an inferior position
within their own ethnic community. As a result they also have
a very marginal position on the matrimonial and (informal and
illegal) labour market. In those two components we could
define their position as different from the 'underclass':
their illegal status and precapitalist labour market position.
A third characteristic are the social and psychological ef-
fects that come from the lagal labeling process. The illegal
status is a 'master status', that overshadows all other social
characteristics. It is an invisble status that migrants try to
hide for others that could exploit this information. Illegali-
ty as master status has very important consequences for the
way they construct their lives. They have to tell lies in
specific circumstances, have to learn to move in public space
and learn to conduct towards burocrats and authorities.

Some illegalized migrants use the only left formal strategies
to survive: they either try to get legalized by getting invol
ved in lawsuits against the rejection of their application.
Only for nationals from countries that undersigned the Europe
an Treaty concerning social and medical protection (for exam
ple Turkye) then have the same rights as Dutch people. For
those that applied for asylum some kind of state reception is
offered, but provisions are getting less and less and a gro
wing number of asylum applicants is denied (longer) access to

That means that illegalized migrants are nowadays complety at
the mercy of informal structures in order to survive. Four
main strategies can be followed:

Criminal activities

One strategy is unfolding criminal activities. Research has
shown that the idea that illegalized migrants are almost
forced into criminality is untrue. According to police records
in Rotterdam the largest majority of illegalized migrants
(84%) that had been arrested over 1995 was not involved in any
criminal act. The same records however show striking differen-
ces: illegalized Turkish migrants are hardly involved in small
or serious offences (0% in Rotterdam, 1995) or drugs related
offences (1%). For Marrocans the percentages were 37% and 28%,
for Algerians almost the same. The differences can partially
be explained from priorities in policy by local police and
local foreign police. The stress is mostly on fighting illega-
lized immigrants that cause inconvenience or criminal behavi-
our. However, it does not explain the systematic differences
between ethnic groups in contacts to the police because of
offences and crimes. This can only be explained by differences
in chances that people have: the level of access to formal
structures, the level of access to informal structures and the
level of access to criminal circuits. For some illegalized
migrants criminality (especially drugs trafficing) is the
circuit that can offer them the financial means they need for
their stay in the Netherlands. Most of those migrants are
working as drug runners - one of the most risk bearing activi-
ties within the drug circuit concerning chances of arrest.

The use of social capital

Illegalized migrants are more and more depending on support by
members of their own ethnic community, not only for their
migration, but also for housing, feeding, health service etc..
Most important strategy of surviving is an optimum utilization
of the support potential that a certain ethnic community has
to offer. There are differences in the extend to which migrant
communities are able to and prepared to give support to ille-
galized migrants. The less illegalized migrants are imbedded,
the more they are at the mercy of themselves. This partially
explains the higher participation of illegalized Marroccans in
criminal circuits.

Manipulation of the own identity

Making ones own identity invisible by destruction of own
identity papers or by using a false identity is an important
strategy for staying in the Netherlands. Denying an own iden-
tity is important because the awareness of ones illegal status
can be expoited by employers or landlords. Workers without
residence permits get paid less. A better strategy is to
obtain somebody elses documents (health ensurance card, social
fiscal number, passport), or to get professionally made false
papers. The circuit that produces those papers has become very
important to illegalized migrants. The number of migrants that
is being arrested because of false document has been rising
The importance of making it impossible to be identified beco-
mes clear from the paradox within the expulsion policy: rela-
tively more illegalized immigrants arrested for criminal
offences manage to stay in the Netherlands than those who
committed no crimes.

Using the public space

Another strategy is learning to live as an 'illegal alien'.
Most important aspect: reducing the risk of being arrested in
the public space. In the Netherlands this explains the geo-
graphical concentration of illegalized migrants. They live
near to specific groups (family, fellow countrymen) or insti-
tutions that offer some protection (churches, support groups).
They hardly travel. This strategy leads to forms of social
protection from society. Many illegalized migrants have crea-
ted systems of controlled information in order to avoid unwan-
ted contact to others.

Those illegalized migrants that have no access to the formal
labour market survive in the Netherlands by using (a combina-
tion of) strategies as mentioned above. However, not every
migrant has equal chances of having one of those strategies.
Illegalized migrants from outside Europe who can join a more
or less established migrant community have an advantage over
new groups of migrants, that are most of all formed by (rejec-
ted) refugees.

Access to labour market

For many illegalized migrants wage labour is the main source
of income, apart from financial contributions by family mem
bers or people of the same social group. The last groups are
mainly organized on national or religious grounds. Within
those migrant communities sometimes possibilities are offered
for work. A example of this is the Ghanaian community in
Amsterdam. Most of them live in Amsterdam South East. About
5.000 of them are living with a residence permit. Estimations
by police originates with a number of 5.000 Ghanaians without
residence permits in the same area. The overall community is
well organized through churches, shops and markets. Over
decades a true parallel economy has grown, in which a lot of
illegalized nationals found jobs. The community is very clo
sed, difficult to approach and isolated from other migrant
Another example can be found within in the Turkish community.
A lot of Turkish migrants that came in the sixties and seven
ties found jobs in the garment industry as a tailor, a profes
sion most of them had in Turkye already. What happened to the
garment industry in Amsterdam is a good example of connections
between formal and informal structures and the interaction in

Garment industry

The Netherlands have a long history in garment industry, going
back to the Industrial Revolution that reached the country in
the second part of the 19th century. From the start the gar
ment industry was concentrated in the east, around Enschede,
and the west, in Amsterdam. During the twentieth century this
type of industry almost disappeared in the Netherland, but
kept a firm base in Amsterdam in very small garment factories.
At the end of the eighties there were about 900 small 'facto
ries' were still running. In those 'sweat shops' many illega
lized migrants, especially Turkish migrants, were working,
heavily underpaid and in very bad labour conditions. In the
beginning of the nineties the local government decided to
start a campaign against those 'illegal garment factories'.
Special 'intervention teams' (formed by police, alien police,
tax offices, social welfare offices) were constructed and
started raiding the garment factories. The raids were flanked
by new legislation that made heavier fines possible, not only
for employers but also for the actual customer. The consequen
ces of the ongoing raids were dramatic: within a few years
most of the illegal garment factories were dismantled. The
about 250 legal factories were therefor cut of from supplies
and orders. The town council asked to slow down the raids in
vain. The garment production was partially transferred to
Turkye, Poland and Bulgaria. Customers built very complicated
legal constructions to avoid fines. Within a couple of years
almost a complete industrial branch disappeared from Amster
dam. What is left now is still partially based on 'illegal'
activities; customers are hardly untouchable due to legal
constructions and the fact that the time between the orders
and the delivery of the manufactured goods has become extreme
ly short. In the meantime labour conditions in the branch have
become even worse and more flexible; most of the illegalized
migrants that were arrested during raids and deported came
back within a few weeks. Some of them picked up their old -
'illegal' - profession, but found that their wages became even
less. The last year there is a development that parts of the
industry again begin to rise in Amsterdam, because customers
want the production to be near.

Besides the garment industry, there are some specific areas in
which illegalized migrants have been easily employed sofar,
all out of a economic interest and a very onesided supply of
labourers on the Dutch labour market.

Cleaning branche

One of the first branches that was confronted with a 'clean
sweep' was the cleaning branche. Cleaners were in general
accused of employing many illegalised migrants, 'black' pay
ments and tax evasion. This industrial branche got such a
negative image, that at a certain moment the branche itself
undertook action to make the image more positive. Years of
hard police control were followed by years of hard self-con
trol. The branch managed to improve its image, but it has
become almost impossible for illegalized migrants to be em
ployed in this branche any longer.


Another economical branche that is known for employing illega
lized migrants is a specific part of agriculture: the horti
culture in glasshouses. It differes from the garment industry
and clening branche because it is of big importance to Dutch
export rates. It is concentrated in the 'Westland', roughly
the area between Den Haag and Amsterdam. The labour in the
glasshouses is low-skilled and heavy. The main economical
activity in the west of the Netherlands - and therefore the
supply and demand of labour - is the service sector, that
requires highly skilled labourers. However, there is a large
potential of labourers available in this part of the country:
illegalized immigrants.
A part of the employers in the Westland had no other opportu
nity than employing illegalized migrants. There are numerous
examples of employers who were actively involved in attempts
to legalize there illegalized employees because of the inte
rest they had in keeping those employees at work. There are
numerous examples of employers who paid their illegalized
employees the same as their legal employees.
But there are also examples of employers that exploited ille
galized migrants in a shame less way. There are examples of
employers that tipped off the police that in that-and-that-
company (of course their own) illegalized migrants were wor
king, so that the police raided the company just before pay-
day. After the raid the employer hired new illegalized mi
grants for the job. Fines are so little, that it can be worthw
hile to do this a couple of times.

In this branche of economy there has been no coordinated
police activity as there has been against the garment indus
try. An explanation for that lies within the economical impor
tance of the branche. However, over the last two years there
are attempts to exclude illegalized immigrants form this
section of economical activity as well. On one side this is
done by making it possible for migrants from outside the EU to
work as seasonal worker. The eyes of policy makers in this
field are directed to the east, especially nationals from
countries that are about to become EU-member and are prepared
to work for far more lower wages under special circumstances
concerning social security provisions. On the other side there
are more and more policy makers that defend the idea of em
ploying refugees that are in the asylum procedure. At this
moment they are not allowed to work, a fact that leads to very
tense situations withinm the reception centres. It is clear
that the government is looking for ways of making it impossi
ble for illegalized migrants to work in this branche, without
damaging the branch itself too much.

Hotel, restaurant and catering industry

In this branche we can see a same situation as there was in
the garment industry until the nineties. Since the identifica
tion requirements at work were imposed, we can see a growing
pressure on employers in this branche as well. It should be
kept in mind that the phenomena of illegal labour in hotels
etc. is bigger than the group of illegalized migrants: in
general this is a branch with a lot of 'black work' done by
students and people who are in need of extra money.
It has been often said as a kind of joke, but if local autho
rities or tax offices would decide to raid this sector as they
did the garment branche, it would soon be impossible to have
diner in a restaurant because most of them would disappear.
General impression is that this is not such a weird joke:
official estimations based on tax offices information in 1992
originates with a percentage of 40% of the workers in this
branch working 'black', many of them illegalized migrants
working as dishwasher or cleaner.
The authorities in bigger cities have chosen a 'soft approach'
of the employment of illegalized migrants in this branche. In
this approach the tax offices play an important role. More and
more wages administrations are controlled by tax officers. For
those controls no raids are necessary: they are carried out by
individual officers who pay visits to companies. According to
identification requirements since 1994, employers are obliged
to keep copies of the passports of their employees within the
wages administration. Each missing copy and each copy of an
unvalid passport can be fined by a special assessment. It is
very difficult to defend against such an assessment, that is
in most cases very high. Assessments can be prevented by
firing illegalized employees after the first and before the
second visit. It is clear that employers have done so, but
there has been no research to the scale on which it happened
over the last years.

Illegalized woman

Most of the information in this article is based on our own
experiences with illegalised refugees and other migrants. A
part of it is based on research that was done under responsa
bility of the University of Utrecht and Rotterdam, and that
resulted in some publications on illegalised migrants. Howe
ver, our experiences as well as the research projects are
mainly based on men. There has been no specific research into
the position of illegalised women.

In general we assume that illegalised women face more problems
than illegalised men. To begin with, there are some general
major problems that women are facing from the moment they
arrive in the Netherlands. The first problem concerns women
that asked for asylum: there is no real attention for gender
specific grounds for asylum. The second problem concerns the
fact that most residence permits for women are depending on
the one issued for their husband.

Women that apply for asylum have bad luck: there is no gender
specific approach from the start (the first interview). Wo
men's political activities are usually seen as marginal or
supporting. It is no guarantee that female refugees can tell
their story to a female official of the Ministry of Justice
and a female interpreter. This certainly doesn't do right to
the asylum stories of women, certainly not in case of gender
specific and sexual violence, abuse and dicrimination based on
gender. Women are often embarressed about these kinds of
persecution, they hardly dare to talk about it. Being inter
viewd by a man only makes this worse. In a special work in
struction for officials in the Immigration and Naturalisation
service, special requirements are formulated concerning care
fulness, amongst others: female officials and female interpre
ters at the interview. Also examples are given of what can be
consideredf as political activities (for example cooking for
guerillas). On paper the work instruction looks good: in
practice nothing has really changed since it came in to force.

Regular residence

The first bigger groups of migrants that came to the Nether
lands were mainly male. They were crimped for industrial work
and other heavy labour that Dutch man did not want to do. In
programs of family reunion later their wives (and children)
came to the Netherlands. The women did not get an independent
residence permit, but one that was partner-related. For those
women real problems begin at the moment their husbands looses
his residence permit or when they decide to divorce.
For illegalised women the situation in this regard is worse
compared to their illegalised husband. Most illegalised men
work; the women is taking care of the household and children.
This means that women in general cannot apply for a permit
based on the 'six years rule'. According to this rule also
women have to work for a period of six years and annually 200
days. This means an almost full-time job. At the same time it
is good to keep in mind that participation of women in general
on the Dutch labourmarket is very little. Only 19% of the
legal women in the Netherlands work full-time. 53% of the
legal women have no paid job. The others are working part-
time. It will be clear that the chances for illegalised women
on the labourmarket are very narrow. This is moreover a
problem because integration in Dutch society is mainly taking
place through the labour proces. This means that illegalised
women live in greater isolation than their husbands.

As mentioned before, women that do have a partner-related
permit to stay can easily get in trouble: only after three
years they can obtain an idependent permit. Divorce within
this period is of course possible, but will result in illega
lisation if they do not find a full-time job within one year.
Women who's husband die within the first three years will be
facing the same problem. Specific attention should also be
paid to those women that are being abused within the marriage.
Even if they can prove the abuse, that does not mean that they
can obtain an idependent permit. As a result of the Linking
Act it has become almost impossible to escape a situation like
abuse within the marriage: leaving the husband means becoming
illegal, being illegal means no reception in a safe-house.
Reception is only possible if they start a procedure for
residence at once.

What makes the position of illegalised women in general diffe
rent from that of illegalised men, is the fact that they
usualy take care of the children. It will be clear that the
illegalised status means a lot of extra problems for women
taking care for children: access to health services, educati
on, housing and the financial situation is completely diffe
rent from that in a 'normal' Dutch family. The most 'normal
and everyday' activities are for illegalised children almost
impossible. Nursery for children under the age of 4 is impos
sible. There is compulsory education between 4 and 18. Illega
lised children older than 16 have no right on further educati
on, although they are allowed to finish their school and pass
exams in the year they become 18 years old. Education for
adults is no longer possible since the Linking Act came in to

Health care for illegalised women has been reduced as a result
of the Linking Act. Specific care like gynaecologist research,
pregnancy accompaniment, pre- and postnatal care, control on
breast and cervix cancer, contraceptives etc. are no longer
available for illegalised women (unless they pay for it).
Specific medical care for children has been reduced to infant
care and vaccination.

As mentioned before, illegalised women hardly have access to
the labour market. If they have paid jobs, it is usually in
very traditional branches like cleaning, babysitting, cottage-
industry(home-work). Many women end up in prostitution. It is
very difficult to etsimate the number of illegalised women
working in the prostitution. Some organisations had rather a
good impression, but since the police started controlling the
areas in which prostitution is concentrated on illegalised
women (like the red-light district in Amsterdam) the prostitu
tion has shifted more underground.

A very vulnerable group of illegalised women are the victims
of 'women trade' (sorry, don't know the proper english word).
Especially women from East-Europe and Asia are crimped under
the false pretext of working in restaurants or bars. After
arriving in the Netherlands press-gangs seize their passports
and force them to work as a prostitute. Sometimes those women
are arrested by the police and then deported. Sometimes they
get a temporary permit to stay so they can testify in legal
proceedings against press-gangs, but only if the trial is in
the Netherlands itself. After testifying women are at the risk
of being deported or illegalised.

And so, within thirty years you can describe three different
social positions of illegalized migrants. The first phase was
that of 'spontane labour migrants', who were easily legalized
and employed. The second phase was the allowance of groups of
illegalized workers (as we do with soft drugs), that enabled
them to look after themselves. The third phase is the one we
are in now: the exclusion and expulsion of illegalized mi-
grants. Over the last years the growing exclusion has led to
more resistance by solidarity groups, but also by self-organi-
sations of especially Maroccan and Turkish workers. In the
same period it also came to a growing number of actions by
self-organisations of refugees.

General resistance

Three laws got special attention in the Netherlands before
they came into force. One should notice that in the Nether-
lands there has been a very long tradition of repressive
tolerance. Part of this is the well-known salami-tactic;
'don't feed the whole sausage at once, but do it slice by
slice'. This is a very succesful tactic from the point of view
from the gevernment. Resistance almost always aims at specific
parts of a policy, hardly ever on the whole. After three
slices people forget what the first slice tasted like. This
means that most measures came and will come step by step. This
tactic unfortunately also determines the efforts of opponents.
Also they think and react step by step. This means it is very
hard to get coalitions that overgrow interests in very speci-
fic areas. However, there were some campaigns that were aimed
at a growing consciousness about all seperate legislation and
developments together.

Aliens Act 1994

As said before, the first plans for a new Aliens Act go back
into the sixties. The fact that it took 25 years to come to a
new law tells something about political decision making in the
Netherlands, but also about the unmanageable process of migra-
tion. There was al lot of resistance against all proposals.
This was not only resistance by migrant organisations, support
groups and actions groups, but also by scientists, lawyers and
even judges. This constellation of critics was relatively new
in this field. The law was accepted by parliament, but some
of the new coalitions between groups and individuals last
untill now and stimulated the resistance against two other
Identification proposals had a long history of resistance.
Therefore it was surprising that hardly anyone resisted the
law that came into force on July 1st, 1994. Therefore the
Autonoom Centrum in Amsterdam took the initiative for a natio
nal campaign. Basic issue within the campaign was the article
in the law that said that all employees had to hand over
copies of their passports to the employers, in order to make
controls at work easier. Workers that refused to hand over the
copy who be put in the highest tax coding: 60% over the total
gross income of the refuser. This part of the law was to
become into force after one year. That gave opponents the
chance to unite against the fact that this part of the law was
only against illegalized migrants working on the documents of
someone else or on false documents. The campaign, started at
the end of 1994, lasted untill the summer of 1998. It gained a
lot of publicity, especially because of the legal procedures
against it. Most publicity got the verdict of an Amsterdam
court that this part of the identification law was contrary to
the European Human Rights Convention. Finally the Dutch High
Court rejected this verdict again in 1998. The campaigners
decided (on legal grounds) not to go to the European Court.
Most important result of the campaign however was that all
kind of workers decided not to cooperate in the hunt for
illegalized workers. Again new coalitions were made. In big
meeting it turned out to discuss about more general develop
ments. Those discussions led to a lot of initiatives against
another law: the Linking Act. From the start the campaign
against this law was aimed at stimulating local initiatives
and initiatives within specific groups of employees in educa
tion and health care.
The Linking Act was a 'gift from heaven' for opponents of the
migration policy in the Netherlands. In fact the law was
nothing new, it was more a legal construction to introduce the
Aliens Act in most laws concerning the social security system.
In the years before this had happened already step by step by
other legislation. However, the Linking Act made it possible
for opponents to make the whole sausage visible instead of
seperate slices. The Linking Act was accepted, but untill
today local authorities are protesting and refusing to execute
the law.

A pet Turk

All three big issues as mentioned before, nor the smaller ones
against for example dentention of illegalized migrants, were
able to bring about a bigger debate on migration policy.
Continuing protests during the last year did not really change
that. What did change was the growing participation of migrant
self-organisations in protests against exclusion. Main reason
for the protests was the combination of the Linking Act with
end of an official legalisation law, that existed untill 1998.

As a result of small legalisation campaigns in the eighties
there was the unwritten rule that illegalized migrants could
be legalized if they could prove that they had been working
legally for about six years. No politician ever paid attention
to the rule, untill the Council of State in 1996 asked for
clear guidelines concerning the rule. Those guidelines were
necessary because of the ongoing complaints about arbitrary
decisions by civil servants on request based on the rule. When
the State Secretary subsequently proposed to formalise the
rule, a very nasty debate in parliament followed: on a rule
that had been applied for almost twenty years. Finally the
mjority in parliament agreed, but under the consition that the
rule was sharpened. In the past the rule said that the six
years of labour had to be completed at the moment of decision
by the state on a request of a migrant. In the new this was
changed into the moment of application. A lot of lawyers did
not notice the change; their clients lost their opportunity of
getting legalized: once rejected, always rejected. Another
change was that judges no longer had any margins to judge: six
years is six years. Especially the hard criterium of working
legally for six successive years, 200 days minimum in each
seperate year, became a very dramatic criterium. There are
several people who can not prove that they have worked for six
successive years, but who have actually been working for more
than ten years. There are several people who have been working
legally for six years, with an annual average of over 200
days, but who have been rejected because over one year they
worked for 197 days.

This 'six years law' (better known as regulation for 'white
illegals') came into big publicity with the case of the Tur-
kish tailor G[《 in Amsterdam. He had his own enterprise, his
sons went to school and were member of a football club. He was
completely integrated in the neighbourhood, a 19th century
popular area. There was one problem: G[《 did not have any
residence permit. His lawyer asked for legalisation according
to the new 'six year law'; he made the (now) classical mistake
to apply for it to early (after 5 years and 6 months). Appli-
cation rejected. Big protests in the neighbourhood. In an
almost completely white support campaign neighbours protested
against the threatening deportation of the family. It was a
campaign only aimed at the person of G[《 and the fact that
he intergrated so well. The Turkish community did not react:
within the Turkish community there was a general idea that
this was just the risk of an illegalized existance in the
Netherlands. Moreovre, Turkish people were annoyed with what
they referd to as the 'pet Turk G[《'. The family was finally
deported; they did not resist.
Unless the complete failure of the campaign in political
regard, the G[《 case made clear how legalistic the Dutch
migration policy had become. It was only an overture of things
to come.

The attitude of the government in this single case caused a
lot of incomprehension in society. There was some kind of
public debate on moral standards within the migration policy.
The general question was: why can't a family, that was so
integrated and payd taxes for almost six years, get legalized.
The answer ('the Alien Act is the only law in the Netherlands
that has to be executed for a full 100%') has not yet been
found by most people.

Gaining momentum

As said, the G[《 case did pave the way for others. The unbe-
lievable reaction of the government on the case led to a
situation in which it was only waiting for someone with a
proper ignition. It was the state itself that provided it.
What many critics predicted became reality after July 1st,
1998, the day the Linking Act came into force: 'white ille-
gals' would be victimized at first. In the first few months
over 1200 illegalized migrants lost a lot of securities they
had before: rent subsidies, childrens allowance, health insu-
rance, work, income, house.
In Den Haag, the third city in the Netherlands, a group of 132
Turkish illegalized migrants decided to go on hungetstrike.
All of them claimed to be victims of the restriction of the
'six years rule' and subsequently victims of the Linking Act.
Other illegalized migrants were excluded from the hungerstri-
ke, which therefore had very small political perspectives. An
estimated number of 1200 migrants in the Netherlands were
direct victimised by the Linking Act: the hungerstrike only
was aimed at their posotion. The hungerstrike started at the
end of November 1998. A great variety of groups supported the
strike, from churches to groups from the radical left. The
hungerstrike took plce in a church. The church had a big
influence in the demands of the strike, and finally also in
the outcome of it. Pretty soon it became clear that the res-
ponsible State Secretary of Justice, Cohen, was willing to
look into all 132 individual files again to see if any 'mista-
kes' were made by the ministry. Within a few weeks the hunger-
strike led to a lot of (positive) publicity, but also to
growing pressure from churches, Green Left, Jewish Social Work
and Socialist Party to end the hungerstrike. The first three
were assigned as negociators. After 18 days the hungerstrikes
gave up and handed over their files to Cohen. He dais he was
study the files and come with a decision on Febraury 1st,
1999. So he did: 13 hungerstrikers were legalized, 65 were
allowed to wait for a final decision in the Netherland, 54
were ordered to leave the country at the end of march. The
last group is now in an estafette church asylum.

When the hungerstrike entered the second week, a group of
Turkish migrants presented itself in Amsterdam as OIB: organi-
sation of illegalized workers. In a meeting over 100 of them
said they were prepared for a hungerstrike as well. In mee
tings with the KMAN (committee of Maroccan workers) and the
Autonoom Centrum the group decided to wait with a hungerstri
ke. The idea was that if 100 people are prepared to go on
hungerstrike, it should also be possible to do something else.
So they did: on December 18 about 150 illegalized migrants
(Turkish and Maroccan) occupied the citycouncil. Politicians
reacted in shock to see the migrants together with 'autonomen'
who's faces had become a little bit too familiar. The occupa
tion resulted in a conversation with councilmembers that
lasted for two hours. As a result of this meeting the Amster
dam branch of the PvdA (social-democrat party) wrote a letter
to the prime minister Kok, urging legalization of all illegal
immigrants who could proof to stay in the Netherlands for
three years.
During January 1999 there were some smaller actions at social
security desks. In the beginning of February a group of 15
Turkish women started a hungerstrike in the office of the ATKB
(Turkish Women Society)in protest against the consequences of
the Linking Act for women. A week later 31 Maroccan men stared
a hungerstrike in the office of the KMAN. The demands of the
women were far more political then the ones from the hunger
strikers in Den Haag: abolishing of the Linking Act, residence
permits for illegalized migrants and special attention for the
position of illegalized women. On March 1st migrants frpom OIB
together with Autonoom Centrum did an action in the Anne Frank
House to draw attention to people in hiding in the nineties.
Some people, especially the major of Amsterdam, reacted in
shock. Two days later there waas an attempt to interrupt a
live television debate between national political leaders. The
debate was held on the day that the Dutch elected their Dis
trict Councils. The action failed, but a few hundredthousand
televiewers noticed that the lights went out at the moment the
political leaders started discussing the migration policy. The
women stopped their hungerstrike after 38 days, after a group
of influential women from within the social democrat party
said they would do anything within their powers to keep the
discussion on legalisation going on.

During March and April more actions took place: in Amsterdam
the citycouncil was occupied three times again by smaller
groups of illegalized migrants. Several times there were
actions at local security desks. In the beginning of March a
national platform was founded under the name 'Geen mens is
illegaal' - No-one is illegal. In the same period the 55
rejected 'white illegals' from the hungerstrike in December
went in estafette church asylum in Den Haag, later followed by
15 Maroccan men in Amsterdam. In June about one hundred ille
galised migrants showed they struck root here by a demonstra
tion by bike (how Dutch) from Amsterdam to Den Haag.

As a result of the hungerstrike an old discussion came back
again. In the past there have been proposals (mainly made by
liberal democrats) that local authorities should have a voice
in the decision which migrants could get residence permits.
Local authorities would be more capable in making decisions,
because they could for example also take in consideration the
extent in which migrants are rooted in local society. The
G[《-case and the hungerstrike now led to the installation of
a committee of majors. In this committee the majors of the
four big cities in the Netherlands (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Den
Haag and Utrecht) will decide about the legalisation of mi
grants who fell victim to the Linking Act. Recently the majors
asked the Ministry of Justice for the files of illegalised
migrants whose names are known by the committee. It seems like
most groups are now waiting for the committee to come with
decisions, though it is still unclear what exactly the crite
ria will be according to which decisions will be made. Over
the last months it became clear that the committee will even
be more strict than the secretary of state.

Relief work

In the Netherlands a lot of organisations are involved in
support of migrants. Most of them mainly work for refugees and
people who are in some kind of admission procedure. Over the
last years the number of groups only working for and with
illegalised migrants has been growing. In all bigger towns
there are now groups involved in relief work with illegalised
migrants on more then just humanitarian level. The groups
offer housing projects, medical aid, legal aid or financial
support or combinations of aid. At the same time they try to
build up political pressure by publications, discussions and
actions on local level. A big problem however is the pressure
that relief works puts on the organsiations themselves. Many
organisations have said they would like to work on making more
political pressure, but that they fail the time and energy to
do so. This problem has only become bigger, since the relief
w2ork itself has become harder: it takes more and more time to
find legal solutions for illegalised migrants. In most cases
there is no solution at all.
The ongoing restrictions in the Dutch migration policy have
led to a very strange development of local authorities finan
cing aid to illegalised migrants. Local authorities have often
critisized national authorities, because the pain of new
legislation often is felt on a local level and not in the
offices where new laws are constructed. In April 1998 a report
was published by the Council of Public Administration, an
official government consultative body. The Council said that
the restrictions in the policy are desirable, but that they
have severe consequences for some migrants. Therefor the
Council adviced that local administrations should finance
private organisations that give aid to illegalised migrants.
The government would benefit from it, the Council says: on one
hand it means that offically the restrictive policy can be
maintained to the outside and keep its discouraging character,
on the other hand subsidising support groups will prevent
illegalised migrants from dying in the streets. Local authori
ties have used the Council's report to absorb the consequences
of the Linking Act. One city, Leiden, untill now officially
refuses to implement the Linking Act and therefor is still
supplying unemployment benefits and rent subsidies. Other
cities were afraid to take the same stand: they are implemen
ting the Linking Act but at the same time are supplying moneys
by other means, partially by financing support groups. The
problem now is that local governments are subsidizing oppo
nents of the migration policy for relief work that became
already a too big part of the work within the the organisati