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Amsterdam dumps the 'A' word

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Amsterdam city council is to stop using the words 'allochtoon' and 'autochtoon' to differentiate between locals and immigrants, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.

The idea originated from Labour party councillors but has now been given the support of the city's executive board.

Labour says the use of the word allochtoon - primarily used to describe people with a non-western background - is divisive and strengthens a feeling of 'them and us'.

'We are all Amsterdammers, and from now on we will talk about Moroccan Amsterdammers or Turkish Amsterdammers,' a spokesman for city executive Andrée van Es told RTL news.

RTL says a 'foreign Amsterdammer' will be defined as someone who was born abroad, or whose parents were born abroad.


According to the Van Dale dictionary, allochtoon means migrant, foreigner or alien. The third generation of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants are still known as allochtoon despite being born and brought up in Holland.

Politicians in the Netherlands have wrestled with the word for years, and there have been previous attempts to have it banned from official documentation.

In May last year, the cabinet's advisory group on social development RMO said the government should stop categorising the population of the Netherlands according to ethnicity and parental birthplaces.

Concepts such as niet-westerse allochtoon (literally non-western non-native) should be scrapped. Instead local councils should only record the birthplace of the person concerned, rather than that of their parents, the RMO said.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

They just don't get it ... the problem isn't the actual word, it's the concept that people born in the Netherlands are less Dutch if their parents were immigrants.

By Valentijn | 13 February 2013 1:29 PM

Newsflash! 2013! Western European capital takes a revolutionary step by stopping the branding of its citizens according to the national origin of their ancestors! Congratulations, Amsterdam!

By phantom | 13 February 2013 1:50 PM

Valentijn: Yes, but on the whole it is still a positive action, and you can't legislate against people's opinions. Ending categorisation of citizens in this way won't fix the culture, but it's a step in the right direction (though not far enough in my opinion - they should categorise by birthplace of individual only and not of their parents).

By Petra | 13 February 2013 4:26 PM

Why would you even have an official policy on how to categorize people? That, by definition, is racist.

By Mumtaz | 13 February 2013 7:09 PM

Imagine if Australia called the children of immigrants "foreign Australians". With the exception of about 200,000 people, we would all be allochtoons! Ha!

By T | 13 February 2013 7:28 PM

Smart idea!

By Ko | 13 February 2013 7:51 PM

when you people are warm and friendly...People will joyfully integrate.
when you preach equal right to another country... but you don't practice it...who is fooling who?

By dude | 13 February 2013 8:24 PM

The science of demographics amongst others also requires to capture the ethnicity of a person..whatever has been said.. There are significant characterists shown by a 2nd generation migrant...this needs to be captured..

3rd generation onward the population becomes local...be it Moroccan descent or German, Italian , French decendants..

By Aries | 13 February 2013 11:06 PM

It is not the word that is the problem but the way foreigners, especially non-white and not Christians, are viewed in this country. The Netherlands claims to be very liberal and tolerant country, but in reality it is not different from France or UK.

By GB | 14 February 2013 11:00 PM

I have lived here for 8 years and have always found the Dutch open and welcoming. I still think they are quite often raging racists who have all kinds of preconceptions and prejudices. In some ways its better when it is out in the open.

By al | 15 February 2013 12:36 PM

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