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Netherlands: Government Scapegoats Asylum Seekers
THE DUTCH parliament's lower house voted on 17 February to expel up to 26,000 "failed asylum seekers" over the next three years. This cruel and inhumane policy has shocked and angered Dutch working people and also many people across Europe.
Offensief, CWI Netherlands
The bill marks the most draconian asylum policy in Europe. Many EU countries have strengthened anti-immigrant policies, including introducing barriers to people seeking work from the ten eastern European states due to join the EU in a few weeks. But the proposals of Jan Pieter Balkenende's right wing coalition government are the first to mean the forcible ejection of refugees.
The bill to expel thousands of refugees, which has to be passed by the upper house of Parliament, refers to asylum seekers who came to the Netherlands before April 2001. Many of these fled the war torn areas of the world, like the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Chechnya.
To send families back to these countries means deporting them to poverty, joblessness, and conflict. Most of these states are without a "functioning government" and are blighted by violence.
Human Rights Watch said the measures are a "deportation law violating international standards".
Anti-immigrant feelings are whipped up by the right wing parties in the Netherlands. Yet, in 2001, only 219 asylum seekers were granted permanent residence in the Netherlands: the lowest figure in all European states
The right play on the fears and grievances of Dutch working people, who face worsening living conditions. The economy is nearly at a standstill, unemployment is growing, and there is an acute housing shortage in one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.
Despite the scapegoating of immigrants by the politicians and media, large sections of the population oppose the legislation.
As the bitter fruit of the new bill becomes clear - increased ethnic tensions, inhumane treatment of families - and the fact that it will not be a solution to the Netherlands' economic woes, many more Dutch workers will oppose the government's policies.
The acute social and economic problems are not the result of an increase in the number of immigrants and refugees. It is the right-wing coalition government which is carrying out the largest round of welfare cuts since 1945, leading to increased poverty.
Pim Fortuyn policies
THE BILL on refugees is a crude attempt by the unpopular government to disguise its anti-working class policies behind anti-immigrant populism.
Until recently the Dutch capitalists encouraged immigration, so as to fill the worst jobs when the economy grew and to push down wages. Now that the economy is slowing down, the ruling class wants to lay the blame on foreign workers. The government hopes this will divide the working class and weaken its efforts to resist cutbacks.
Ever since the rise of the racist, populist Pim Fortuyn List, which leapt to second place in the 2002 elections, the main parties have adopted many of the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric of the ultra-right.
Smaller parties, such as the Dutch Socialist Party (in which Offensief, the Dutch section of the CWI, participates), Green Left, and human rights groups, have attacked the bill.
Offensief opposes the bill and all racist immigration policies. Local protest actions are developing and a national demo against the bill has been called for 10 April.
The CWI in the Netherlands calls for a mass campaign, uniting immigrants and workers, to oppose the government's bill and the social cuts.
Last year saw large scale protests against the cutbacks and also a huge movement against the US led war on Iraq, which the Dutch government supported and assisted. This shows that working people can be brought together to fight the right-wing policies of the government.
It is essential that a united struggle also fights for jobs for all, for a huge increase in funding to the welfare state, and for decent and affordable housing. The wealth exists in society to provide these aims, but it needs to be under the ownership of the working class - in a planned, democratically run economy, under a socialist society.
In The Socialist 28 February 2004:
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