Andrew Osborn, The Guardian, Dec. 2
The city of Rotterdam said yesterday that it wanted to ban poor and unemployed immigrants from moving there.
In a move that is likely to cause uproar, the city council adopted a policy paper which it said sought to restore “long-term balance” to the city.
Almost half the port city’s 600,000 population is of non-Dutch origin and the council said it was keen to curb new immigration “of the wrong sort”.
Its policy paper stipulated that any newcomers must earn 20% more than the country’s minimum wage or about €9.10 (£6.30) an hour in order to settle there.
New immigrants would also have to possess a good command of the Dutch language in order to obtain a residence permit and the council said it would ask the Hague not to send new political refugees for the next four years.
“We have a lot of people coming into the city who just go on welfare,” Ronald Sorensen, leader of Leefbaar Rotterdam (Liveable Rotterdam), the party behind the initiative, told the Guardian.
“If people want to come to Rotterdam they must have a job. If they don’t have one, then we don’t want them.”
Mr Sorensen said that the council would stop building affordable housing and only build “expensive houses” in order to get the right “balance”.
“We want people to work and we want people to learn Dutch. We want Rotterdam to look like any other Dutch city but at the moment we have more unemployed people and crime than anywhere else.”
Deportations of illegal immigrants will be stepped up and the council said it intends to start evicting anti-social residents from social housing.
Mr Sorensen argued that urgent action was needed to stop Dutch middle class families fleeing the city for better areas.
Mr Sorensen denied the initiative was racist. But he admitted the policy would have been approved by one of the city’s most famous sons, the far right anti-immigration champion, Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated last year.
“He would be very proud of this,” Mr Sorensen said. “This problem has been around for 30 years but nobody has dared burn their fingers on it. This is exactly what Mr Fortuyn stood for.”
He added: “Colour is no problem but the problem is coloured. We are not racist. Nobody dares say that any more after Pim was shot.”
He claimed that the new rules would also apply to Dutch white people who wanted to move to the city, the Netherlands’ second largest.
The initiative is being pushed by councillor Marco Pastors, one of Fortuyn’s students and a close friend of the man who was gunned down by an animal rights activist in 2002.
Fortuyn outraged many by calling Islam “backward” and demanding zero immigration.
The subject of immigration remains sensitive in the Netherlands. The construction of one of Europe’s largest mosques began in Rotterdam in October and the council is fighting to make its design less “Islamic”.
Recent surveys suggest that the population supports tough action on immigration with 60% of Rotterdam inhabitants in favour of restricting the number of newcomers.
The city council’s plans are likely to enrage the Dutch left, however, and the centre-right government has already indicated that limiting the number of immigrants who can settle in one area may constitute discrimination and be in breach of the constitution and various international treaties.
The council is therefore likely to become locked in a battle in order to realise its plan, but insists it will persist.