Solidarity network for Illegals in the Netherlands (november 1994)


In the summer of 1994, SNIN was established by four groups that have a lot of experience in working with illegal immigrants.

The four groups were working with different groups of illegal people (labor immigrants, refugees, immigrants that came for family reunification or studies), and had in common that they had been mobilising practical and political support for illegals, mostly on a local level.

In the Netherlands over 10.000 volunteers are working for accepted refugees. The number of people working for illegal immigrants is harder to estimate, because the biggest part of the work is not done publicly and is not done by organisations, but by (legal) family. This makes it difficult to organise illegal people.

Still there are a lot of groups involved in relief work for illegals. We felt a very big need knowing from each other what kind of work we are doing, exchange experiences, and if possible to join our forces. For that reason the SNIN was established. It is not meant to create another formal circuit (of meetings), but to create a structure that relies upon practical and mutual support. How do we built up a network with doctors, what kind of housing projects are possible, but also: how can we unite in political actions ? The results of the policy carried out towards illegals have to be made visible. It is important to take initiatives that are aimed at obstructing the current policy by creating basic facilities for illegals. Illegals should have a voice and should be able to defend themselves against the attacks that society is making at their positions.

The SNIN is not an organisation, it's a network. It is formed by independent grass root organisations that act against the current migration policy, and who are actively involved in realising collective structures for illegals. The groups working together in the SNIN admit that exchanging information makes sense, and that a common source of knowledge and mutual support in actions and activities all strengthen the protests against the current migration policy. In other words, the SNIN is a communication and support network.

The groups that participate admit that the world belongs to everybody, and that free travel of people all over the world is a basic right. Human rights are there for all of us. This means that all people on Dutch territory must be granted basic rights. The right on health care, education, housing, privacy and income. Denying these rights to migrants that have no permit to stay is a violation of human rights.

The initiatives of the network and organisations in it are aimed at activating Dutch citizens and make them help illegals and illegalised refugees. This means informing people about the structural reasons for migration and about the position illegals are in. It also means that we are not running away for confrontations with the government, to make clear to all that the human rights of isolated and defenseless people should be respected. The participating groups actively built up structures to help illegals with housing, medical aid and legal aid. They will stimulate and help other groups to do the same. Initiatives will be taken by the participating groups themselves. This means that participating urges an active position. Groups inform each other, take initiative to share experiences and use each others facilities without interference of a national center. The network enables to mutual adjustment in political actions and alternative relief work. Groups can join the network if they at least subscribe the standing points and oblige themselves to mutual support and mutual exchange of information. Participating groups will be on mailing lists of all separate groups and will be informed on local initiatives.

The SNIN published a paper to present itself to the Dutch public. The paper contained interviews with some participating groups and two illegal immigrants.

The SNIN is now working on building local networks in and around cities that had no open facilities for illegals. The experiences from other organisations is transferred to other groups and cities. In Leiden a medical structure has been set up, in which doctors, pharmacies, hospitals, churches and insurance companies participate. Result is that better agreements have been made between doctors and hospitals, that access to specialised medical aid is now more open, and that one pharmacy is now handing out free or very cheap medication.

In four other cities groups from the SNIN are active in net work building. Until now the experiences are quit good; in all four cities a growing group of people is more and more involved in working with refugees and illegals.