This week (rather last week – posting get a little delayed) my work involved reviewing an interesting text: the new Dutch Immigration Law. The rules and regulations applying to non-Dutch citizens residing in the Netherlands are getting tighter. This can have serious consequences for a university where close to half the people are non-Dutch, i.e. aliens. Employers have to check all kinds of details of anyone they employ and report these details to national immigration service. So presumably the university now has to send reports on its thousands of alien students and staff. A change in someone’s work status could mean that they no longer meet the criteria for remaining in the country. This could apply for example if you had a high-skilled job and switched to a lesser job, perhaps because of impairment. If someone switches from work to study, they would have to reapply to remain in the country, and perhaps they become undesirable then.
I was quite shocked at how draconian the law has now become in a country that until recently prided itself on its respect for human rights everywhere. But in recent years things have gone awry: is this an unintended consequence of Srebrenica?
Coping with discriminatory regulations against migrants is something I’ve met before. As a graduate student welfare officer in Edinburgh years ago, we had to deal with a spree of cases of foreign PhD students who would travel to other European countries for their studies or simply for a short break. They would then find that they would not be allowed back into the UK. The immigration authorities would say that they only held a single entry right, even though such a stipulation was nowhere to be found. The poor PhD students would be held in limbo at some port or airport under threat of immediate deportation. Many of the PhD students were also being funded by other arms of the British government. The university had to work hard to recover its impounded PhD students.
And the irony? Well, this same week I was reading the life of Irène Némirovsky (author of Suite Française, and David Golder) – I had reached the part where in the late 1930s increasingly draconian laws and decrees were being introduced in France against foreigners and other undesirables, especially Jews from Eastern Europe, many of whom had fled the pogroms or who were children of parents who had fled them. Even to the extent of withdrawing French nationality that had been granted. Irène Némirovsky herself was never granted citizenship, setting her up for deportation to Auschwitz and death.
At times of difficulty once reasonable people take refuge in excluding those who are most not like them. We are better, we don’t want to contaminate our community. What will the next version of Dutch immigration law bring?