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Holland is ‘too restrictive on skilled migration’

Published on 02/03/2004

2 March 2004

AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands is suffering economically because it places too many restrictions on the entry of foreign engineers and software developers, Dutch Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst has claimed.

At the end of a visit to Asia, the Democrat D66 minister said the Netherlands was currently operating with a populist LPF-type approach to the movement of skilled labour, news agency ANP reported.

The LPF party is well-known for its anti-immigration stance, having been set up by maverick politician Pim Fortuyn.

Fortuyn became famous both nationally and internationally due to his controversial statement declaring that the Netherlands was full. He was assassinated in May 2002.

Brinkhorst met with his counterparts in China, Japan and India last week. The main item on the agenda was the World Trade Organisation (WTO). International talks over the WTO failed last year in Mexico, but Brinkhorst is optimistic about a political will to resume free trade negotiations.

And speaking at the end of his trip, Minister Brinkhorst said countries such as India had many complaints about the Dutch attitude towards expats and skilled labour migration.

“The Netherlands employs (entry) criteria that are much stronger than any other European country. For Indians, it is therefore very difficult to stay here,” the coalition government minister said.

“We are shooting ourselves in the foot, especially because we do not have enough people that have specialised in exact professions.” 

The minister said there were too many complaints in the Netherlands about the outflow of knowledge, while at the same time the nation was hindering the entry of skilled workers.

“This is short-sighted. We must exchange more knowledge with countries such as Asia. India has at is disposal an enormous reservoir,” he said.

Brinkhorst said he wished to give a political signal, but also admitted it was very apparent that something needed to change.

He gave as example an Indian professor who in wanting to study in the Netherlands, was subject to an investigation by detectives based on concerns that he was married to a woman two years his senior.

But the minister also said the problem was unconnected to the Dutch asylum policy — which has been tightened in recent years, greatly reducing the number of refugee applicants.

An asylum amnesty and deportation policy was also passed in Parliament last month, allowing the deportation of 26,000 asylum seekers and awarding a residence permit to 2,300 others.

Brinkhorst also said the debate was not connected to the discussion over Polish workers who enter the Netherlands to work in the agricultural sector.

The Cabinet recently decided against issuing work permits to Polish and other East European nationals when 10 nations are admitted to the EU later this year. Instead, employers will first need to prove that no other Dutch workers can be found for the job.

EU nationals from the existing member states do not need a work permit in the Netherlands. The restrictions placed on people from the incoming EU member states will vary from sector to sector.

“What we are missing is an immigration policy in relation to the transfer of knowledge,” he said.

The stimulation of education, knowledge and skills is an important tenant of D66 policy. Extra education funding was one of its main pre-conditions it placed on its decision to help the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD form a majority government last year.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news