Monday 20 September 2021

‘No internationals’ – Foreign students often left out in the cold

A meeting for international students in Leiden. Photo: Brandon Hartley

Universities and colleges started this week but hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign students are still hunting for a place to live in the Netherlands.

In Groningen, for example some 600 foreign students have contacted volunteer organisation Shelter our Students, which tries to find temporary accommodation and lodgings for them. The University of Twente has even gone so far as to recommend foreign students don’t come because of the shortage of places to live, the AD reported last month.

The annual search for student accommodation is being made worse by the fact that foreign students are not welcome in many Dutch student houses. Vacant rooms are often advertised on Facebook and specialist housing sites with the proviso ‘no internationals’ and ‘Dutch only’, even though this may break anti-discrimination laws.

Indonesian student Fitri Khumaeroh told the AD that she had been searching for a room for months, without success. She is currently living in an Airbnb flat but told the paper: ‘I would really like to take part in student life.’

Growing numbers

Some 13% of the student body at Dutch universities come from outside the Netherlands and that number has been increasing. Coupled with the overall increase in student numbers, and the shortage of housing has only intensified, Ama Boahene, from student union LSVb, told the paper.

She said the LSVb receives ‘an enormous amount’ of emails from international students who cannot find anywhere to live, as well as about the ‘Dutch only’ trend. ‘Many international students are in emergency accommodation. We really need to have more housing for this group,’ Boahene said.

‘It is worse than ever this year,’ Shelter our Students spokesman Marinus Jongman told NOS. The situation has been more difficult because the housing market itself is so tight and students are not leaving student accommodation when they graduate, he said.

Google Translate

‘We have heard about international students using Google Translate to correspond with the landlord… but as soon as they phone and speak English, the room is no longer available,’ he told the broadcaster.

‘It is like looking for a needle in a haystack,’ said Romanian student Paul. ‘Very few adverts are open for foreign students. Most student houses don’t want foreigners,’ he said.

Jongman said universities have an obligation to make sure there is enough accommodation for people who come to the Netherlands. ‘Let us be clear about this,’ he said. ‘Foreign students are very welcome, but they should be treated humanely. You can’t bring them here only to make them homeless.’

Earlier this week, the LSVb together with political parties PvdA and GroenLinks called on housing minister Kajsa Ollongren to do more to solve the student housing shortage in general.

Student housing monitor Kences says there is a shortage of at least 22,000 student rooms, and that number is only growing.

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