Migration Control and Minority Policy:
The Case of the Netherlands
Hans van Amersfoort
The history of migration control in the Netherlands shows interesting similarities and dissimilarities with other West European countries. Like other West European countries, with the notable exception of France, the Netherlands has not considered itself to be an immigration country and has only reluctantly accepted the reality of being one. Historians have repeatedly pointed out that immigration is not a new experience for the Netherlands. From the Middle Ages until well into the nineteenth century there was a constant migration especially from what is now Germany into the relatively well developed and prosperous Netherlands, but this has little political relevance because in the twentieth century the Netherlands has experienced more emigration than immigration. Especially since World War II the country has had a negative migration balance. The population density and the relatively rapid natural population growth were considered to pose a serious problem for future development. The government was actively stimulated emigration. It was therefore very difficult for the government and the general public to see the country as an immigration country. Interestingly enough the word ‘immigrant’, which exists in Dutch, was not used in most of the post-war period for people immigrating into the Netherlands. They were called repatriates, overseas citizens, refugees or foreign workers, but not immigrants. The obsession of the Dutch with population density is quite remarkable. It is repeatedly stated that ‘we are the most densely populated country in the world’. This statement is not correct as there are even more densely populated countries. Moreover it is obvious that there are several areas of the size of the Netherlands that have an even greater population density, but the image of being a crowded country plays a role in the general discussion. As elsewhere, discussions about migration and migration policy in the Netherlands tend often to be
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Publication information: Book title: Mechanisms of Immigration Control:A Comparative Analysis of European Regulation Policies. Contributors: Grete Brochmann - Editor, Tomas Hammar - Editor. Publisher: Berg. Place of publication: Oxford, England. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 135.
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