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Racism level stabilises, says report

11 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — Despite continued media and political attention on ethnic tension, discrimination based on race has not increased in the Netherlands in recent years, a new report from anti-racism bureau LBR has indicated.

The number of registered discrimination complaints, academic research and opinion surveys indicate a stabilisation and perhaps even a small decline in the amount of discrimination, the LBR said on Tuesday.

But the anti-racism bureau said the data also indicates that several forms of structural discrimination persistently re-occur, such as discrimination in the labour market.

The findings mirror a long-term trend in which immigrants and native Dutch people are increasingly getting along better in daily life. But the long-term trend is being pressured by increasingly negative public opinions, it said.

The political and social commotion in recent years has not radically affected immigrant-native Dutch relations, but the gulf between the two communities has widened. The public’s tolerance is being tested by the hardening of the social climate.

Concerns about “ethnic crime” has grown in the Netherlands in recent years following several brutal killings carried out by non-native Dutch people. In turn, migrant groups have claimed that immigrants are being stigmatised and have urged increased respect across both sides of the racial divide.

The combination of anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn — who was gunned down by an animal rights activist in May 2002 after he said the Netherlands was full — ethnic tension, tightening immigration laws and moves to enforce the integration of migrants have pushed the issue of non-Dutch residents in the Netherlands to centre stage.

The LBR report comes after a parliamentary commission found last month that the integration of migrants had partially succeeded in the past 30 years. 

It said integration occurred “in spite of”, rather than “thanks to” government policies. But government parties claimed in response that the commission had got it wrong and should have clearly spelled out that integration policies had blatantly failed.

Integration and immigration is a political hot potato in the Netherlands and the government remains determined to further streamline the assimilation of foreigners.

The Cabinet approved a proposal last week to make foreigners learn the Dutch language and culture before entering the Netherlands for marriage and family unification purposes. Other legislation will follow.

Meanwhile, the LBR said in its “Racism in the Netherlands. The State of Affairs” report that the long-term trend of improving relations between the Dutch migrant and native community could be lost if the antithesis is constantly expressed in the nation’s “opinion climate”.

The present polarisation is having a negative impact on integration and the co-operation and confidence that loom as possible solutions for societal problems. The LBR said that restraint should be exercised in debates about migration, integration and the Islamic faith.

The LBR report said government and politicians should ensure that they are not lagging behind the spirit of the times and should demonstrate greater leadership in restoring public confidence that integration problems in the Netherlands can be solved, news agency Novum reported.

Meanwhile, other LBR conclusions are:

• new forms of racism, such as that committed by immmigrants and on the internet, should not be exaggerated;
• discrimination by immigrants could have greater social consequences in future because the social position of immigrants is improving;
• in terms of integration, the Islamic faith can play a role. This means that besides socio-economic, cultural and language factors, religion can also explain differences between the Netherlands various ethnic groups; 
• anti-Semitism is on the rise with both Muslims and Jews under greater pressure than people of other religious faiths;
• support for the shelter of political refugees and the number of extreme racist remarks against refugees has declined;
• the extreme right movement is being increasingly marginalised despite incidents involving youths influenced by extreme right ideas.

The full LBR report (in Dutch) can be viewed on the bureau’s website: www.lbr.nl.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news