‘Increasingly criminal’ foreigners?

‘Do you have problems with people from central and eastern Europe? We want to know.’ On its Reporting Central and Eastern Europeans website, the bigoted Party of Freedom (PVV), led by Geert Wilders, describes its targets as ‘increasingly criminal’.

This website is bigoted and bad for the Netherlands, and the Dutch should be doing more about it, although it may be too late: in a De Hond survey, 55% of Dutch people said they disapprove of the site. This implies that 45% – or nearly half – either approve or don’t care. The same survey reports PVV approval ratings climbing since the website launched: the PVV would win 24 seats in Parliament if elections were held today, or four more seats than two weeks ago.

Asking citizens to ‘report’ people of certain ethnic or national backgrounds is discriminatory. If you don’t like the welfare system, you have a policy position. If you don’t like Poles on welfare, you’re a bigot. If you don’t like lazy people, you have an opinion. If you don’t like lazy Mexicans, you’re a bigot. Where’s the website to report on Eastern and Central Europeans doing good deeds? Or one for complaining about Dutch people I have problems with?

It’s hard not to take the attitudes of the PVV and their sympathizers to mean ‘all foreigners out’, especially since their website displays a fake newspaper titled, ‘Wouldn’t it be better if you went home?’ And judging by comments I hear from many Dutch about Americans, I could be next. Or maybe it’ll be the Indians, Greeks or Chinese?

Such xenophobia hurts the Netherlands, a country with the same population as the Los Angeles metro area. It wouldn’t just sound reactionary and racist to propose closing off L.A. from the rest of the US, it would be insane. Los Angeles can’t provide itself with labor and goods without inflows and outflows of people. The

Netherlands is no different: walling off the country would devastate the Dutch economy. From low-skill jobs to the top-tier talent that bolsters what the Dutch call their ‘knowledge economy’, an attitude of hating buitenlanders will drive out the people who help the Netherlands thrive. Eventually we will go home, and the Netherlands will be worse off. TU Delft’s international students pay eight times as much for tuition, study hard and often stay and work here, paying taxes and creating new ideas that help their host country prosper, but they won’t want to stay in a country where people hate them for no reason.

Sure, not all Dutch people support the PVV, but that 55% needs to make themselves heard before the discrimination being

peddled by the PVV becomes a normal part of Dutch politics, like extreme right-wing Christian politics has in the US. Prime Minister Mark Rutte decided to play the coward, declining comment on the PVV website for weeks now. This means it’s up to citizens, including TU Delft’s Dutch students, to put a stop to xenophobia. Dutch students should make extra efforts to mingle with international students, making them feel welcome, which will help counteract bad encounters, like when an American student I know was refused service in Amsterdam for being a foreigner, or when a work colleague of mine recently joked that I wasn’t human because I’m American. Volunteer for a liberal political party. Write to papers like Delta, voicing your opinion. Speak up if your friends act like bigots. Vote. Stop the rising bigotry now, or one day you might wake up to a Netherlands that’s poorer, angry and not much else.

Devin Malone, a recent MSc graduate in industrial ecology, is from Anchorage, Alaska.

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