SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Immigration may be a hot political potato at the moment, but the Netherlands needs to bring in workers from outside Europe to fill gaps in the workforce, according to coalition party D66.
‘We are not getting anywhere if conservative politicians get their knickers in a twist again about immigration in the run up to the elections,’ MP Maarten Groothuizen said in an interview with the Volkskrant.
‘It is nothing to be scared off, and it has always been with us. We just have to look at it and see how it can be managed,’ Groothuizen said, ahead of Thursday’s debate with VVD asylum and migration minister Ankie Broekers-Knol.
Groothuizen’s proposal is a radical departure from the current migration debate within the four-party coalition cabinet, the paper said.
While ChristenUnie is in favour of migration but only subject to strict regulations, the VVD and CDA are mindful of the electoral danger posed by the anti-immigration stance of the PVV and Forum voor Democratie, the paper points out.
Groothuizen’s proposal consists of providing ‘European safe routes’ for migrants who will be allowed to work here for a maximum of four years, with a commission to determine the type of workers needed.
Participation in current European pilots, such as a Spanish scheme where agricultural workers from Morocco return to the country after a certain period, would be a start, the MP said.
‘Paper is patient’
‘We have been discussing this in the party for a long time,’ he said. ‘We have jobs that need to be filled. I have spoken to people from small and medium-sized businesses and they say: we need people.
The population is getting older. What is the use of locking the doors to Europe, so people come here by paying criminal types who put them in danger?’ One of the countries Groothuizen thinks would be a good partner is Nigeria.
‘Many people speak English there which would make things easier,’ he said. ‘An agreement with that country would include deals about taking back their nationals. Now many people wanting to work in Europe use the asylum route, which is putting too much strain on the asylum system.’
When asked if the plan could see migrants remaining in the country Groothuizen said that over half of labour migrants leave after five or six years. ‘My plan specifies clear agreements on this with employers and the countries of origin.
We are minimising the opportunities to work legally after four years,’ he said. ‘And yes, some will stay. But how bad is that? At the moment we have four workers paying for one pensioner.
Soon that will be down to two. We have to consider that as well.’ The next Dutch general elections are scheduled for March 17 2021. Immigration is expected to be one of the main campaigning issues.