Focus switches from refugees to limiting foreign worker numbers

The horticulture sector employs thousands of foreign workers. Photo:

The parties contesting the November 22 general election may be sharply divided on dealing with refugees, but there is much more cohesion when it comes to cutting labour-related migration, according to an analysis in the Financieele Dagblad.

There is, the paper says, wide-ranging support across the political spectrum for limiting the number of people who come to the Netherlands to work.

The right-wing Liberal VVD, for example, says the “costs and benefits” of immigration from outside the EU should be more fairly divided. Companies employing workers from outside the EU should be responsible for their community needs, particularly new firms with “lots of labour migrants” which want to set up in the Netherlands.

“We have become more critical,” parliamentary hopeful Ruben Brekelmans said in Trouw. “If a company wants to grow, they first need to see if there are Dutch people who can do the job. If they need to bring in people, then you will have to make a deal with the local authority and province about providing decent housing.”

New party Nieuw Sociaal Contract (NSC), led by Pieter Omtzigt, has set a total migration target of 50,000 people a year, including refugees, workers and students. The party wants to be “more selective” about which companies take up most room, particularly distribution centres that employ a large number of foreign workers.

When building licences are being awarded, officials will also have to look at the added value such firms provide, he says. Omzigt also wants tougher rules for staffing agencies that bring in foreign workers and takes a tough approach to housing and working conditions.

GroenLinks/PvdA, which joins the VVD and the NSC in the top three, has also hinted at greater controls on migrant labour. Party leader Frans Timmermans told the FD in an earlier interview that slaughterhouses are a prime example.

“The meat is largely exported and we have to bring in people from abroad to process it. Perhaps one needs to ask if we want to do this on this scale,” he said. Timmermans has also said that companies need to do more to provide housing for the people they bring in to work.

“Parties on the left are focusing on the poor housing for workers from Eastern Europe and want employers to do more,” the FD said. “Right-wing parties are increasing their demands [on employers] in the hope that it will become less attractive to work with foreign staff.”

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