Struggle for 'sans papiers' and 'illegals' in Netherlands


By Bastiaan van Perlo

Nederland Bekent Kleur, a national platform against racism in the Netherlands, is seeking international assistance in its work.

At this moment, we are involved in a struggle with our government to legalise a group of "sans papiers". Although there is a lot of pressure from Dutch society, the government will not discuss the option of a general amnesty for a group of about 2000 "illegals" who are known to have resided in the Netherlands for a long time, more than five years and often even more than 10.

The government refers to this group as "white illegals", which means they have worked and lived here for a long time and were treated like normal citizens when it comes to things like the income tax, social security and many other institutions.

Due to a new law, the Koppelingswet, these people have now been stripped of the rights and security they have built up during their years in this country.

We feel that this can not just happen. We insist on legalisation of at least this group. Many other European countries have legalised large groups of "illegals" in the past.

Now the illegalised have started to defend their rights: two separate hunger strikes are going on, one of 15 women and one of 31 men. We feel that pressure from abroad would certainly help their cause, so we ask you to write a protest letter to the Dutch secretary of state, Job Cohen, urging him to go in the direction of legalisation. Please send copies of your letters to Nederland Bekent Kleur, Postbus 59606, 1040 LC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, or fax: 31 20 618 56 91.

Model letter

Department of Justice
The Secretary of State Mr. M.J. Cohen
Postbus 20301
2500 EH Den Haag
The Netherlands

Dear Mr Cohen,

We have been informed of the situation in the Netherlands concerning the "white illegals" and we want you to know that we feel strongly about a fair treatment of this group of "sans papiers". Several other European countries have in recent years legalised big groups of illegal residents. In the period between 1996 and 1998 France has legalized about 75,000 people, and more recently Italy has legalised 250,000 "sans papiers".

We have also been informed of the so-called Koppelingswet, a law which scans the Dutch administrative systems for people who do not have a residential permit. We consider this law to be very harsh, as it even excludes people from public services like education and health care. We understand that these people in most cases have worked and lived in the Netherlands for many years and until recently have normally been included in the tax system and social security system and have paid their income and other taxes.

We consider the above to be more than enough background to permit this group to continue their lives as legal citizens of the Netherlands and we therefore urge the Dutch government to pardon at least this limited group. This would not contradict the actions taken by other European states and would show the respect these "sans papiers" have earned.