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Immigrants in the Netherlands
History of immigration in the Netherlands
Dutch government and the immigrants
Common problems of immigrants
A multicultural crisis?
A prospect for the future
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History of immigration in the Netherlands

First generation non-Western immigrants by year of arrival

Labour migration

After the Second World War, the Netherlands was in ruins: all industry was destroyed, houses were devastated, and unemployment was sky-high. The country needed rebuilding and industrialisation. This reconstruction process led to an acute shortage on the labour market by the end of the 1950s and early '60s. Initially individual companies, but soon afterwards also the Dutch government, recruited workers with few qualifications from Southern Europe (especially Spain and Italy) to work in the new industrial sector. Many of these 'guest workers' (in Dutch: 'gastarbeiders') returned after a few years to their country of origin.

In the middle of the 1960s the Dutch economy boomed. The Dutch government decided to invite guest workers from Turkey and Morocco. Many (male) workers, often married with children, moved to the Netherlands. They hoped to earn a lot of money in a short time in order to be able to provide a better future for their family back home. 'Leaving to stay' was the paradox.

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Family reunification

The oil crisis of the 1970s caused serious problems for the Dutch economy. The unemployment rate increased sharply and in all industries workers lost their jobs. As a result of this economic crisis, the labour migration was stopped in 1973. However, the number of the original guest labourers continued to rise as a result of the introduction of the law on family reunification (1974). This law, which gives families the right to live together, enabled the families left behind by many former guest labourers to move to the Netherlands. From that moment onwards, many women and children, especially of Moroccan or Turkish origin, began to arrive in the Netherlands.

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Migration from former colonies

In the 17th century the Netherlands established a colonial empire, which would last until the decline of imperialism following World War II. Since the middle of the 20th century large groups of people from these (former) colonial territories have moved to the Netherlands.

The ##Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia) were the most important colony of the Netherlands. Between 1945 and '65 around 300,000 Dutch, Mollucans and Indo people, the descendants of mixed Dutch and Indonesian parents, left Indonesia for the Netherlands. The majority arrived around the time of Indonesia's struggle for independence in the second half of the 1940s.

Another important colony was ##Surinam which gained independence in 1975. Just before the declaration of independence many Surinamese people started to emigrate to the Netherlands. Currently more than 300,000 people from Surinam live in the country.

Since the '90s large migrant groups from the ##Netherlands Antilles (officially still a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) have been arriving in the Netherlands. About 130,000 Antillians, a third of the total population of the Netherlands Antilles, now reside in the Netherlands.

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Asylum migration

Since the 1980s new groups of refugees have been making their way to the Netherlands. These asylum seekers flee their country of origin for political, humanitarian or economic reasons and arrive in the Netherlands from all parts of the world. Currently most political refugees come from Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. In 2000 the Netherlands accepted about 40,000 asylum seekers into the country, while today (i.e. 2008) that number has fallen to only 10,000. Because most refugees are recent arrivals in the country, most of them are considered first generation immigrants.

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> Click here to read more about the immigration policy of the Dutch government.