Dutch Government Advised to Eliminate Allochtoon Categorization

8 May 2012


A report to the Dutch parliament from the advisory group on social development (RMO) has recommended the cessation of categorizing residents according to ethnicity and parental birth places, advising instead that only the birth place of the individual concerned be taken into record. The report advocates the elimination of terms such as niet-westerse allochtoon (non-western non-native) which signal heritage as ‘non-native’ for those with a parent born abroad. In response, integration minister Gerd Leers said that he favoured maintaining ethnic registration for the purposes of measuring the effect of government measures, such as interventions in employment and education.

French court backs nursery for firing veil-wearing employee

News Agencies – October 27, 2011


A French appeals court has ruled that a kindergarten had acted legally by firing a female employee who refused to remove an Islamic headscarf, the nursery’s lawyer said.

The Versailles Appeals Court said the Baby-Loup nursery in nearby Chanteloup-les-Vignes had acted within a law allowing privately-owned kindergartens to forbid the wearing of religious symbols when it fired the employee in 2008, lawyer Richard Malka said. The decision upheld a previous ruling by a French employment tribunal. Malka hailed the ruling as “a major victory for secularism”.

“Irregular Migration“ – an Interview with Dita Vogel

20 February, 2011

Refugees, persecutees, undocumented immigrants, aliens without residence status – hundreds of thousands of them live in EU countries. The constant risk of being deported forces them to go underground, work under exploitative conditions and live without access to medical care. An interview with Dr. Dita Vogel, who is in charge of the research area “Irregular Migration” at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).

Dr. Vogel, how many “illegal migrants” are there in Germany at present?

Nobody knows exactly how many persons without residence status are currently living in Germany. According to estimates arrived at by our institute, 200,000 to 400,000 is a realistic figure. The number of illegal residents has been declining for years. Our maximum estimate for 2005 was as high as 700,00 undocumented persons. The decline is to some extent related to the enlargement of the EU, which has led to numerous immigrants such as those from Poland gaining legal residence status. A similar trend can be observed in other EU countries, where regulatory programmes and the economic crisis have likewise contributed to the decline.

You use the term “irregular migration” – why?

Irregular migration is a term that is gaining increasing acceptance in international organisations and scientific discussion. Irregular migrants are people who are not entitled to reside in a country under that country’s law. They were not permitted to enter it and have done so nevertheless, or should have left the country and have remained there. Official texts often speak of “illegal residence”. The term “illegal residents” is frequently felt to be stigmatizing.

Are all “irregular migrants” refugees and persecutees or rather people with entrepreneurial spirit and the courage to take risks?

The two are not mutually exclusive. Refugees or persecutees who manage to get as far as Germany will generally not be among the weakest and poorest in their home countries. Illegality is often a transitional stage: they enter the country illegally, apply for asylum and may end up going underground again, if they are unable to justify their reasons for seeking asylum or fail to have their grounds for fleeing their countries recognized as entitling them to refugee status.

But many of them work illegally… Many irregular migrants succeed in joining Germany’s underground economy, finding employment in domestic service, for instance, or in restaurants and on farms or building sites. Despite low wages, some of those who are employed in this way manage to earn a living through their industry and entrepreneurial spirit. Others are cheated of their wages and don’t know how to defend themselves.

Given the tougher border controls, how do they gain entry to EU member states without documentation?

Illegal entry by boat across the Mediterranean or to the Canaries is the most widely known route, but certainly not the most frequent. We can assume that most irregular migrants nowadays enter the country legally, as tourists for example, or manage to pass the border controls with forged documents.

How do the destination countries deal with irregular migrants? Is the situation in Germany comparable with that found in the other EU member states?

Basically, all EU member states agree, on the one hand, that human rights must be upheld, irrespective of residence law, and on the other, that people without a right of residence must leave the EU as soon as possible – preferably voluntarily, by force if necessary. Legalizations should only be possible in exceptional cases. However, there are still wide differences in the mode of implementation employed by the various member states. In Germany, for example, civil servants are subject to a duty to pass on data and must report cases of illegal residence to the competent foreigners’ authority. It was not until last year, that this duty was qualified in recognition of the fact that it might stand in the way of children attending school or people receiving emergency hospital treatment. The qualified duty must now be put into practice in the field, so that parents without residence status will send their children to school and dare to go to hospital for emergency care. In other countries, cooperation on the part of officialdom is less extensive.

Ways out of illegality

What ways are there out of illegality?

The primary and most important route is voluntary repatriation to one’s home country. For many people, illegality is only a stage in their lives. They return home because they have achieved their income goal or the situation in their home country has improved or because they cannot bear to live a life of illegality any longer.

And in the receiving country?

Some countries have legalization programmes. Other countries – such as Germany – temporarily suspend deportation of those who cannot be deported. Migrants thus enter a grey zone, which may end in renewed illegality, legality of return.

The EU intends to take steps to combat exploitative practices and prohibit the employment of irregular migrants through strict controls – will that help?

In the final analysis, the provisions on uniform penalties and controls are very vague. The mode of implementation is left up to the individual member states. What is more important is the fact that the Employer Sanction Directive of 2009 lays down that the states should have effective mechanisms in place that allow employees to lodge complaints against employers, also through third parties such as trade unions. The battle against the worst cases of exploitation of illegally employed third-country nationals, involving cases where persons without status are cheated of their wages, can only be fought with employees, not against them. This, in turn, protects German employees, as nobody can compete against a dumping price of zero euros an hour.

Others recommend preventing immigration in the country of origin – what do you think of this recommendation?

This is largely reality. Visas are only granted after close scrutiny and airline companies that have not checked passengers’ documents properly must transport them back to their home countries and bear any ensuing costs. This method functions but has negative side-effects that have not been sufficiently investigated, e.g. the extent to which desirable visitors are deterred from travelling there. Stricter border controls also tend to lead to an extended period of stay of illegal migrants because re-entering the country or moving to and fro becomes risky. In academic circles, this type of phenomenon is also referred to as the “ratchet effect”.

Volker Thomas conducted the interview. He is a free-lance journalist in Berlin and heads the Thomas Presse & PR agency.

Translation: Mary-Lou Eisenberger
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
August 2010

It’s all in the hands

A Muslim man applying for practical vocational training at Swedish company declined to shake hands with the female director, and was therefore denied the training. This, in turn, caused the employment office to cut him off his subsidies. After an appeal the discrimination representative judged the employment office to pay the man 60.000 skr in damages.

This has caused a debate about greeting customs and the definition of discrimination in Sweden.

Amsterdam man fined for refusing work on religious grounds

An Amsterdam court has backed the decision of the Amsterdam Welfare Agency (DWI) to fine a Muslim man who refused work which would require him to shake hands with women and cut his beard. The man was fined 200 Euros by the DWI on the grounds that his convictions prevented him from accepting work as a security guard. According to the DWI this would also have frustrated efforts to get the man employed as traffic warden or seniors’ home. The court argued that in this case, finding a job
takes precedence over freedom of religious expression.

Cohen advocates reduced welfare for burka wearers

Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen says women who will not remove their burkas in order to get work should not receive welfare. Telegraaf reports that national politicians, including representatives from the CDA and PvDA parties, support this proposal. In 2006 Diemen local council attempted to introduce such a ban on benefits, but the decision was reversed by an Amsterdam court in 2007. There is every indication, De Telegraaf reports, that a vote on the issue would now get a majority.

Cohen said in an interview with Trouw that he opposes a general ban on the burka as he believes it is an expression of religious belief. However, he believes the burka is an obstacle in situation where contact with others is necessary, including work and school. There, women should choose a less restrictive head covering.

Nurse Fired for Not Wearing Short Sleeves

De Telegraaf reports that a Muslim nurse in Den Bosch has been firing for refusing to wear short sleeves. After working in the hospital since 2001, the nurse began wearing long sleeves under her work uniform as she “started becoming more engrossed in her faith”, explains her lawyer Frank Vermeeren. Barred from work in April 2008 for her refusal to bare her arms, she proceeded to lodge formal objections. Now a judge in Den Bosch has dissolved the nurse’s employment contract as of August 1, 2009, awarding the nurse 8,500 euro in compensation.

Dutch Trained Imams Unable to Find Work in Mosques

Imams graduating from Dutch government training programs are unable to find work in mosques, Trouw reports. Three educational institutions offer courses for qualification, an initiative of the cabinet to train imams familiar with Dutch language and culture. However mosques do not have the funds to hire graduates of the program and locally trained imams are not necessarily popular with the older generation of worshippers. To date, no mosques in the Netherlands have hired an imam from the program.

Manual on the wearing of religious symbols in public areas

To address the issues surrounding the wearing of religious symbols in public areas, this manual explores how the European Convention on Human Rights relates to the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; identifies key concepts found in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; and examines the role and responsibilities of both states and citizens.

The author then explores underlying motivations for wearing religious symbols, and the visibility of religions and beliefs in the public sphere. Essential questions policy makers should address with regards to this issue are then posed.

The manual seeks then to apply these principles and approaches to a number of key areas such as state employment, schools and universities, the private sector and the criminal justice system.

New FRA report examines discrimination against Muslims

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) today released a report on discrimination against Muslims in the EU. The results for Muslim respondents indicate similarly high levels of discrimination and victimisation as for other minority groups surveyed. Many racist incidents are not reported to the police or to any other organisation. Knowledge of anti-discrimination legislation is low, and there is a lack of trust in complaints mechanisms.

FRA Director Morten Kjaerum: “Overall, the results suggest that Muslims are treated very differently, dependent on both their ethnic origin and their country of residence. Wearing traditional clothing hardly increases discrimination. Muslims surveyed do not consider religion to be the main reason for their discrimination.”

On average 1 in 3 Muslim respondents were discriminated against in the past 12 months, and 11% experienced a racist crime. The highest levels of discrimination occurred in employment.

Morten Kjaerum: “The high levels of discrimination in employment are worrying. Employment is a key part of the integration process. It is central to the contributions that migrants make to society, and to making such contributions visible. Discrimination may hamper the integration process”.

The FRA calls on EU governments to tackle the situation of discrimination by making people aware about how to make a complaint, improving the recording of discrimination and racist crime, better informing people of their rights, allocating more resources to integration measures, especially for youth, and strengthening the role and capacity of accessible mechanisms for reporting racist incidents.

The findings form part of the first ever EU-wide survey on immigrant and ethnic minority groups’ experiences of discrimination and racist crime (“EU MIDIS”). The report covers 14 EU countries.