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Forums > Social Discussion > multiculturalism and integration - is it working out in your country?

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resident fridge magnet
Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands
Member Since: 3rd Oct 2002
Total posts: 835
Posted:Hi everyone,

I live in Holland and recently there have been some developments here which have me deeply worried about his country. Before I embark on a long-winded explanation of the situation here, the reason I am posting this is that I would like to hear from other people what the situation is like in other countries: do you have large immigrant communities, and if so, how is it working out? Is there 'integration' or do separate communities live alongside each other? Are there similar problems in your countries to the ones we have? Have solutions been found for them? What do you think should be done?

The story below is pretty long-winded, if you want to skip it the summary is: the 'native' dutch are becoming more and more anti-immigrant, and naturally immigrants are beginning to deeply resent the dutch. Society is becoming ever more polarised and there is a pretty unpleasant atmosphere here now. The government, the media, the 'native' dutch community and the immigrant communities (to a lesser degree) are all contributing to the problem. I'm worried and have very few ideas as to how we can reverse the trend, especially since most people don't seem to particularly want to see it reversed. i focus mainly on Moroccans because that's where the biggest problems lie at the moment. I have tried not to use any language that might in any way offensive to anyone, the only reason I distinguish between 'native dutch' and the rest is that one of the problems we have IS that people here make that distinction, even to people of foreign descent who have been here for generations and are of course as Dutch as the rest of them.

Ok, here's the Dutch story:
There are immigrants and descendants of immigrants from all over the world living here, and the four largest groups are people from Indonesia, Suriname, Turkey and Morrocco. Most of the people (descended from migrants from) Turkey and Morocco (there are around 600,000 of both living here in a total population of 16 million) came here by invitation in the 60s and 70s when the economy was booming and there weren't enough dutch people willing to do the 'dirty work' (e.g. production line and factory work). To make coming to Holland more attractive the government made it very easy for the men to bring their families here, and also to bring new brides/grooms from their home countries: these laws have been tightened somewhat, but they're still in place and also applicable to 2nd and 3rd generation 'immigrants' living here. This, in combination with a relatively higher birth rate, means that these groups are growing faster that of the Dutch native population.

For many years Holland prided itself on its 'open' and 'multicultural' society, though underneath the surface I don't think it ever truly existed to any great extent: when the recessions hit in the late 70s/early 80s and again in the early 90s there was much grumbling about 'foreigners' (people who had come here by invitation, had Dutch nationality and had been living here for 20-30 years or who had been born here!) taking "our" jobs. Also there was very little real integration: migrants and their children congregated in certain neighbourhoods and went to certain schools, had their own social events, shops and venues.
However, there was hardly any overt tension and on the whole people got along pretty well: it certainly wasn't socially acceptable for the 'native' Dutch to vent their negative opinion on 'foreigners' even if they had one.

And then came Pim Fortuyn. In 2001 he broke the taboos on being anti-immigration by starting a political party based on it: I don't hink he actually represented feeling already pervasive in society, he just managed to convince people they felt that way: the events of 9/11 definitely helped him a great deal, because of it people were already nervous about Muslims, and two of the main immigrant groups - Turks and Moroccans were on the whole Islamic.
It was a terrible thing for freedom of speech and democracy in the Netherlands that he was shot and killed by an animal-rights activist just before the elections, which he had looked very likely to win, but I can't say that I wasn't relieved that he didn't come to lead the government: his party won a landslide victory, but without the man himself to rally around they quickly collapsed into internal dispute, and the government came crashing down with them. New elections were called and the 'old' parties won again.
However, the damage had been done: Pim Fortuyn had broken the taboo and now everyone felt justified in complaining about the 'foreigners', in the open to their hearts content. As a result, a gulf was opened and has continued to widen between the native Dutch and the (descendants of) immigrants. Naturally, many of the immigrants don't feel in the least bit welcome anymore- quite the opposite in fact - and don't see a need to make an effort to fit in in a society that has turned against them. Kids of Moroccan descent, many of whose parents were born here too, who felt mostly Dutch until a few years ago are now pushing their Moroccan identity, because the Dutch aren't letting them be Dutch.
Last year things were made even worse by the murder of a filmmaker called Theo van Gogh by a Dutch Moroccan-by-descent Islamic fundamentalist. His murder was followed by a spate of arson attacks against Mosques, Churches and Islamic schools, and rising tensions between especially the Dutch and Moroccan communities.

Anyways, what we are left with now is a divided, polarised Dutch community, and a very, very unpleasant atmosphere. I blame the government, the media and the 'native Dutch' very much for what is happening, and only to a far, far lesser extent the Moroccan community itself.

The government: especially after the murder of Theo van Gogh, various ministers and government officials came out with some incredibly stupid phrases and ideas:
- one claimed that we were "a nation at war" - one lone gunman shoots a filmmaker, and this parlementarian places "us" (the Dutch) at war with the community this man coincidentally hails from but DOES NOT REPRESENT
- a minister suggested that the right to hold double nationality should be withdrawn: people should be forced to choose between Dutch nationality and whatever other nationality the might hold. I'm half English half Dutch myself, and though I have never lived in England, don't ever want to, and have no particularly strong feelings about the place, i like holding double nationality: my English nationality represents a part of my heritage and identity that I would like to hold onto. I was extremely irritated by this ministers suggestion, and as a result felt a lot more English than i have ever done before - attacking peoples right to their identity is not precisely the way to make them feel more Dutch!!
- another very dumb suggestion, also by a government representative, was that if a holder of double nationality commits a serious act of violence, they be expelled from Holland and sent to their other nation for that country to deal with - this law would also cover people who were born here!. i.e. if i were to go out now and beat someone to a pulp, I would be kicked out of Holland and extradited to England - a country where i have never lived and that bears no responsibility for my eductation, sense of morality etc. - for it to deal with me. Yes, this really makes me feel the Dutch state views me as a Dutch citizen. I can barely begin to imagine how this must have made Moroccans feel, since it was very obviously aimed at them rather than ALL people of non-Dutch descent.
- after the murder of Theo van Gogh, the government and others immediately organised a big rally in condemnation of it and in defense of freedom of speech - which is fine, but no similar rally was organised for people to show their condemnation of the arson attacks on Mosques and Islamic schools.

The there's the media, which has been loving all this:

- after the murder of Theo van Gogh they went around asking every person of Moroccan descent they could find for their opinion, reinforcing the idea that the murderer represented the will of the Moroccan community.
The media then went on only to broadcast the most radical views thay could get people to express.
- after every incident the media flock to every politcian of Moroccan descent they can find, asking them to represent their views: in this way these people are portrayed only to be 'Moroccan' politicians. What their feelings and political ideas on any other issue is is ignored. This reinforces the divide between 'us' and 'them'
- we have, I think, accross all the tv-channels, one Surinam newscaster, the rest are all Dutch-by-descent. There is still nothing in the mainstream media that in any way shows immigrants to be a normal part of our society
- even 3rd generation descendants of immigrants are still referred to as 'foreigners'

The media has an immense influence today, and I find it abhorrent that they are not taking the responsibilty that comes with that. They are dividing our counrty even further.
That goes for both the media and the government: the history of nazi-germany shows that if you tell people for ten years that Jews are "untermenschen", they will come to believe it eventually - and we all know the results of it. We in Holland have been fed the information for about four years now - since the rise of Fortuyn - that Holland is "full", that Muslims are terrorists, and that "foreigners", and especially Moroccans are not really part of our society. The fact that their parents were born here makes no difference. And everyone is beginning to believe it - now, as I pass someone of obviously non-Dutch descent in the street I automatically label them in my head. If they're Arabic-looking, terrorism, islamic fundamentalism, the 'us' and 'them' mentality, all of it, immediately comes to mind. Young Arabic men with beards and wearing djallaba's (sp?) scare me.

That is where Dutch society (including myself!) as a whole is to blame: people are not bothering to think for themselves, view things objectively, to just talk to their Moroccan neighbours etc.

Finally, I will not go so far as to remove all blame from the Moroccan community itself: I think that the fact that problems have arisen with this community above all other does signify that they are doing something differently from the rest. Their children are doing worse in schools than those of other immigrant communities, and crime rates are excessively high by comparisson among Moroccan youth. This does obviously not go towards improving the native Dutch image of them.

All in all, i only have a limited grasp of what is going on, too - I cannot comprehend how we got to this point in a society that is so open in regard to so many other things - drugs, homosexuality & gay marriage, euthenasia etc. Where did it all go wrong?

Damn that turned into a long story, sorry!! As stated above, i'm very worried and unhappy about what is happening, and I'm very interested in hearing stories from other countries: do things work better where you come from? Did you have the same problems in your country and have they been effectively addressed? What are your personal views on how these problems could be effectively tackled?



everyone's unique except me


Pirate Ninja
Location: Galway/Ireland
Member Since: 13th May 2004
Total posts: 3882
Posted:thats a great post neph. hug very well though out and honest.

hopefully i'll get some time to reply to it properly. we have huge immigration issues in ireland. mostly with nigerian and eastern european foreign nationals

they are both first genertation waves and the resentment from irish people is beyond incredible. there is no integration between our african communities and any other. none.

all the eastern europeans work in the service industry for minimum wage. they get imported, dont get taught english and are conned into dodgy contracts.

the city councils group the communites seperatly too which only reinforces the bad feeling.

wish i had time to right more.

hope your well

love and light


Love is the law.

Skinny poi maker
Location: Moscow, Russia
Member Since: 12th Feb 2004
Total posts: 313
Posted:Hey Nephtys =)

Well i live in Russia and we have huge problems here.
The problem is really huge in the capital - Moscow (where i live).
During the past several years alot of ppl from other republics in Russian Federation have been coming to live here. From chechnia, aserbaidjan, armenia, georgia and alot of other ones. The thing is, they are not educated in the most, a bit wild at 30% and really unpleasant to deal with. Im not a bit of a racist, but what is going on here is awful. There are alot of criminal persons among them - they rob, they cheat, they lead illegal business, they work as taxist, but not like taxists in common sence - they drive their own car around the city and take passengers for money. Actually, i often use this way of travelling around my city, but the thing is, when you sit in a car with such a person driving, you're always sitting like on the needles -"what if he robs/rapes/kills me..." and the common yellow taxi is too expencive an hard to get in the street, you know. So...
Then I use subway to get somewhere (all the ppl , who dont have cars do) and near the subway station where i live there are tooo many of migrants (i guess its not immigration, its migration, when ppl move fri=om one republic to another)/ So, they got a strange habit to stick to all the girls they see. And they smell bad *sorry*, they talk strange and they are convinced that they are adorable and you must i dunno what... have sex with them immediately, marry them and give thim the russian citisenship...

But thats not the worst thing.
They come to Moscow, live here illegally and become criminals, inspite of registering and finding jobs...

So the problem does exist here. And we live with it, and cant do anything ab it... Sad. Thats the problem of the system. Thats the problem of the government, that doesnt even try to support the far republics and ppl have to do all those things...


[psylocibin fingerbobe].
Location: London
Member Since: 11th Dec 2004
Total posts: 479
Posted:We have similar issues in the UK and it's becoming a hot topic in the run up to our elections.

We also have a tabloid media that likes to stoke up the issues, with alarming headlines that seem to equate all immigrants with terrorism. Meanwhile, they seem to ignore the fact that foreign workers are doing all the jobs we no longer want to do or pay the normal wages for. Agricultural workers, industrial workers, call centres, our dentists and health service all rely completely on imported or outsourced labour.

I don't think we have got it right in our system, but I'm getting well and truly hacked off with all the newspaper scare stories about asylum/terrorist thing.


Location: Van Diemans Land
Member Since: 11th Jan 2005
Total posts: 475
Posted:Here where i live we have a large number of new citizens from African nations and other places and they are fantastic.

The bad, smelly, criminals here are the locals.

Fair luna bright, fair luna moon
it shines at night but fades too soon
fair luna moon, fair luna bright
forever we dance
we dance under starlight


what goes around comes around. unless you're into stalls.
Location: Bali
Member Since: 3rd Mar 2005
Total posts: 4030
Posted:Yeah, Skell. GO there! That's very much what the rest of Oz thinks about the crusty Diemans! wink

For the last few centuries Australia has been founded on immigration that has dispossessed the real Australians.. the aboriginal people. (which is where our thorny identity issues are.. how to deal with historical guilt/ being a nation that prides itself on 'fair go' and 'equality' that is also founded on theft and abuse etc...)There have been waves and waves of UK, Northern European, Southern European.. and successive shock waves as people adjust to the 'new'. The newer waves are Asian and assorted Middle Eastern. And now a little bit of African. In some cities it's really really noticable. Other places hardly at all. Of course people stick together with others who speak their language and so on. Just like the Brits did in India!!
Personally I think it enriches our society and makes things better and better. Because apart from the Aboriginals there isn't a strong historic 'Australian' nationality/ethnicity like there is Dutch or Irish. People blend in over time. The 'wogs' like Greeks and Italians who were the 'other' when I was a kid are now the mainstream Aussies. The Asians who came in the last 20 years are now becoming our doctors and are respected for their intelligence and business sense. The group who seems 'the other' now are the Middle eastern people. There are difficulties between that group and the 'already here' Aussies because there are more obvious 'othernesses' that seem harder to integrate... headscarves and stuff. And a feeling/ newspaper talk that the Muslim men don't respect other women who dress more loosely... there've been a few nasty rapes and fights with police, but really nothing too general. There was a political party called One Nation that flared and more or less died that had an 'integration' rather than 'multicultural' program. (' they' should become like Anglo-Celts, not hold on to their ownlanguages/customs/ identity.) But overall Aussies will I believe try to make friends and sort it out, as long as they don't feel endangered or disrespected by the 'new comers'. We don't have the space/housing problems of older smaller countries. We are having problems with housing prices etc but that is not seen as the 'fault' of the newcomers, more Govt policy...

.....Can't juggle balls but I sure as hell can juggle details....


lovable smart-ass
Location: vineyards, Vienna, Austria
Member Since: 16th Oct 2003
Total posts: 785
im am russian- armenian in ethnicity and austrian in nationality.

in austria im a russian
in russia im an armenian
in armenia im a austrian

great huh?

austria has a huge problem with prejudice towards foreigners. its funny how they call eastern europeans "tschuschen" although half of austria has slavic roots.
the hypocrisy is overwhelming.

"is optimism in austria just a lack of information?"
-Alfred Dorfer

Mr Majestik
Mr Majestik

coming to a country near you
Location: home of the tiney toothy bear
Member Since: 9th Mar 2004
Total posts: 4693
Posted:yeh, with the african refugees the thing is even through they're coming into our community they're still staying with an african community, for example my school, it prides itself on being the most multicultural school in the state, which is true, but then you dont see the african kids mixing with the australians too much. so its sort of not working....i dunno

"but have you considered there is more to life than your eyelids?"

jointly owned by Fire_Spinning_Angel and Blu_Valley

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