Immigration, expats and the Netherlands


Holland, though a tiny country, has during the period of colonization sailed to Indonesia towards the south and Surinam towards the west. Power, business, shrewdness and the expatriates’ income led to a rapid financial prosperity of the country. There are admirations like dikes standing to block the north sea, international court of justice towering high in the air, etc., etc.

Door to immigration
Holland’s glory reached far, internationally and wide, opening doors of prospects, future and immigration. Its rapid economic transitions and industrialisations during 60’s and 70’s, led to among others a mass recruitment of Turkish and Moroccans in lower class labour forces. Many analysts view the subsequent influx of their families under the scheme of family reunion and the growth of Muslim population in the Netherlands as the beginning of the Islamisation of Europe.

In an attempt to combat the influx, in 2006 an obligatory overseas integration test was put in place. Under this law, a pass certificate on preliminary integration test is a prerequisite to apply for visa to join wives, husbands and children in the Netherlands. Though Human Rights Watch calls it a discriminatory policy targeting to certain population groups only, many Dutch ideologues are contented with its outcome.

Today, the immigrant population walking on the streets of big cities – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, etc. comprises more than 60%. This indeed is a growing threat to Dutch identity and a valid reason to feel discomfort. A “small loyalist group” had been increasingly expressing its frustration on this issue since years. This anti-immigrant vocalist group was perceived as a very insignificant number. However, a sweeping public support in the election of 2010 harnessed by the ultra-anti – (Islam) immigrant party came as a shocking reality.

Holland and hospitality
Many view Holland as a hostile and as an intolerant country. In 2011, Forbes magazine rated the Netherlands as the most unfriendliest country in the world for expatriates. Most probably this has to do with the individualistic and materialistic nature of Dutch society. Furthermore, the complexity of Dutch language and challenges with integration can be illustrated by the example of, Rodaan Al Galidi. Al Galidi, who received European Union’s literature prize on 28 November 2011 on behalf of the Netherlands, failed the Dutch integration test. This test makes one eligible just to apply for Dutch citizenship, keeping aside nearing the doors of possibilities and opportunities.

Further, on 10 April 2012, the Dutch Government announced to scrap the provision of integration assistance – a support for language and orientation programs from 2013. This makes the Netherlands the most difficult country, structurally and politically, for the immigrants and refugees.

Holland’s performance in socio-economic sector
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has recently published its findings of a research conducted to compare nine public sector services in 28 developed countries during the period of 1995-2009. Though the Netherlands is reported to be doing well in the sectors of education, public administration and social security; its performance on health care sector is poor. The health care system in the Netherlands, considered one of the best in the world, according to this report is gliding down a slippery slope. The Netherlands scores 4.5 out of 10 points, concluding the expenditures in health sectors as inefficient, inappropriate and inadequate with shifting of priorities.

Opportunities in the Netherlands
The glory of the Netherlands’ job market appears dying down. The number of Dutch people migrating to other countries in search of better pastures is increasing each year. Recently, the Netherland’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported that since January to May this year, 52,000 people have left the country, making the number leaving the Netherlands 344 per day. This number in comparison to previous years is alarmingly high. The cited reasons for the migration are for better working climate, better possibilities and to escape from complex regulations and high tax.

Holland as a destination country?
If first-degree relatives are hanging in the Netherlands, there is no choice. Those who have options to make alternative choices, Holland will be an inappropriate one. However, unlike many critics conclude, immigrants who earn their own living in Holland are generally well accepted in the society; and at large, however small it be, the “successful immigrants” are happy. Contrast however is for those with limited skills, capacity and motivation.

One of the Contributing Editors of the Bhutan News Service on health issues, Dr. Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal, a Netherlands based physician, is originally from Dagapela, Bhutan. In an attempt to raise health awareness and to promote adoption of healthy behaviours among the immigrant population and among people of the developing countries, in collaboration with other public health experts Dr. Dhakal has founded, Global Health Promotion. It is a free knowledge-sharing institute operating online at


  1. Dear all,

    as I know Mr. Dhakal and value his opinion on matters I have to react on this article. I do agree that my country is not as welcoming as it has been before. Moods have changed in my country towards immigrants.

    But Mr. Dhakal’s views are incomplete and one sided I am sorry to say. First of all The Netherlands is a small country (roughly of the same size as Bhutan) but densily populated with 17 million people. More than half the number of people living in Nepal which is three times as big as the Netherlands.
    Our country is over industrialized and lacking natural beauty and our cities are in some areas overcrowded.

    Also, there are many integration problems with some groups of immigrants. Violence and anti-Dutch sentiments are strong under Moroccan youth in particular and in some other migrant groups too. This situation has influenced the stress in Dutch society for the worse.

    Still, the Netherlands was founding member of the United Nations and is still on the percentagewise same level as the US concerning the immigration of refugees and other vulnerable groups who are welcomed in our society. The Netherlands stood on the basis of the international treaty for refugees which by the way was never signed by Nepal nor Bhutan.

    Also, Mr. Dhakal lives in Amsterdam, the capital and a cosmopolitan city with over 160 nationalities living in the city. Almost 60% of the big city population is non Dutch from origin. Compared to Nepal that is of course a totally different situation and where the Netherlands is still accepting refugees from Iraq, North and East Africa, Bhutan, Birma and a list of other countries one can not say the same thing for many other countries.

    Thr economy in the Netherlands is rapidly deteriorating and the number of people living in poverty is increasing fast. Believe me, I know that by experience.

    I find Mr. Dhakal’s text overly critical and one sided. He himself has enjoyed the hospitality of my country and now lives in freedom. There is no limitation to his right of speech, travel or any other liberty that our citizens enjoy. Quite a difference from the situation in Nepal and Bhutan. Actually, quite different from the whole South Asian subcontinent.

    His argument that lesser skilled persons have a harder time than ‘successfull’ immigrants is not very strong as that situation is thesame all over the world.

    I feel that Mr. Dhakal should have been more positive on my country and be less influenced by the big sity life in Amsterdam which is totally different from life in the rest of the country. I honestly do believe the Dutch government and population deserve more respect than what I read in his article.

    Best regards,
    Alice Anna Verheij
    writer, photographer, filmmaker, journalist and human rights advocate for the cause of the Bhutanese in exile.
    The Hague, Netherlands

  2. As jingoistic you are, ms Alice, I am glad to know that you have now realized how unsubstantiated issues like these hurt. You have been carrying one side story of Bhutan for quite a long time, so be it. Let DHakal speak of the reality of the Netherlands.

  3. In addition to my earlier post I must say that I have always been disappointed and offended by your unethical practice of journalism and reports on Bhutan. We, me and our fellow Bhutanese citizens deserve more than the crap you write about my country.

  4. Alice, very nice to break the gap via BMS chat!!!

    You are offended, you are disappointed – these can. But that it is your problem and you need to seek for solution, I can’t help. You may read your comments again, and see if any of your statements are evidence based.

    Your story of the Netherlands and its role in the UN and big talks around, to me is like the story of Dagapela in 1980’. Like things changed there, so in the Netherlands! This is what I write in first para. You feel bad to read your country (meanwhile mine as well), criticised, but did you realise that my write up is based on facts and evidence and not on emotions? Intention of this article is not to satisfy or disappoint people like you, but it is a fact-based substantiation to Bhutanese in the camps that NL may not be a priority country for resettlement.

    You write, “His argument that lesser skilled persons have a harder time than ‘successfull’ immigrants is not very strong as that situation is thesame all over the world”. About which world are you talking? What % of the resettled Bhutanese (keeping aside the asylum-seekers) in NL makes their own living? How does it compare with people resettled to other countries? Any idea? Yes, you may argue; but to sell your sentiments you need to have evidence.

    I have tried to make my comments non-offensive keeping in mind that you look Bhutanese as you audience.

    Meanwhile, thanks for reading my write-up!!
    Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal

  5. First of all, I feel no need to react to comments from unidentified people like ‘Lotus Flower’ here. If one is not strong enough to use their own name in a discussion they are simply not worth the effort.

    Namaste Dr. Lakshmi,

    How I prefer to discuss

    A remark: my statement of being offended was made for the sake of discussion. Your statement that that is my problem is not very smart. Because that is the exact mentality problem you are addressing in Dutch society, and the one I am constantly battling. Because when someone is offended and explains why, it is not any longer a problem of that person only but surely also that of others involved. Discussing and exchanging arguments is a good thing, but only when effort is made to really understand what the other is argumenting and why. In that, you must be aware of my continuous efforts for the Bhutanese in exile. I, my dear Lakshmi, am as dedicated as ever and as supportive as ever. But as a writer, film maker I am also critical to all, to my own government but also to anyone else including my Bhutanese friends.

    The Netherlands: different moods and opinions.

    Concerning my comments and yours, Dr. Lakshmi, I urge you to read carefully and try to understand my country better. As I wrote, you are writing from the perspective of someone living in Amsterdam concerning your argument about mentality towards people from abroad. I underlined your observations as the big cities are concerned, simply because our cities are difficult places for everyone living there. Wether they are migrants or people born here. I can state and substantiate that as I my self live a life much simpler than most of the migrants in my country while I was born here myself. I know the difference between Dutch city life and social structures and provincial and rural life and social structures. I’ve experienced both in my lifetime and they are very, very different.

    Real challenges for migrants: language

    Concerning people with lesser skills having lesser opportunities in life globally, I am very sure I do not have to prove much. There’s logic involved here. As you well know, people with less education and certainly lesser language skills will always have a difficult time in any country that is alien to them. As such, it is not surprising that many people coming here are not easily adjusted to society. Success in that is an exception, not a rule. But that has not much to do with Dutch mentality but way more with the difficulty of learning a language that is complicated and realizing that resettlement to the Netherlands involves exactly that: mastering an alien language to be able to live and prosper in a country while that language is not used elsewhere. Dutch is really something different to learn than English simply because of the fact that it is far lesser used and even in Europe a local language. You know that. But instead of focussing on reasons for difficult integration on the basis of undeniable circumstances like this, you only point a finger to the Dutch shifting mentality in a manner that the reader might think that all Dutch are against foreigners. Well, that I think, is a very unfair way of describing how people are here. Dutch society is way more varied in mentality than only that loud mouthed portion of the population. Your last paragraph actually states the opposite.

    The limitations of ‘facts’ and ‘bias’

    So, for a good understanding, that observation of me is the basis for my disappointment. As an academinc you very well know that statistics and ‘facts and figures’ are always of very limited value. Because they seldom are objective. For any research paper there can be – and usually is – an opposing research paper. So presenting reports as sole facts is dangerous, always at least try to look at what else is there.
    And there is a lot out there. The voluntary force in Dutch society for support of migrant groups in our society is large. Very many Dutch people have been and are still giving their best to welcome and aid people coming to our country. Even when the government is cutting down on aid budgets because of the bad economics.

    Why I state that views are one sided?

    There’s much more to write and discuss but this is not the place now. Of course I understand the intentions of what you wrote. Because that is exactly the reason why I responded. Because when you ‘inform’ people in the camps in Nepal about how a country is as a resettling country you should never be one sided or incomplete in your obeservations. For instance, I see no reference to the reports of GHRD who made a thorough research into how the Bhutanese are doing in the Netherlands. Observing the challenges AND explaining measures for improvement. But also concluding that things are not so bad at all.

    The importance of education

    I – again – underline your last paragraph in your initial post: The Netherlands is a welcoming and good country to live in for the ‘successfull’ immigrants. The lesser educated and skilled persons however will find life here is a struggle. But be honest in that: do you really think that life is easier for lesser educated and skilled persons in the US or Canada or Australia or indeed any country anywhere? Do not be naive on that, certainly not when advising others through your writings.

    Netherlands and international treaties

    My story of the Netherlands and the UN is simply based on historical fact and can easily be checked anywhere. Just read the treaties on the installement of the UN, the Dutch position in the European parliament over the years and may I suggest you talk to Mr. Jan Pronk, former (and first) UNHCR chief on this. To understand how Dutch politics work one should understand that current flows in society and internal politics do not reflect international positioning and efforts. Because those are not made by the current government but based on international treaties that were ratified. Even politicians like Mr. Wilders, who is a disaster, will never be able to divert international Dutch politics away from the treaties that are there like the UN treaty on refugees which was co-designed and ratified by the Dutch government many years ago. Did you by the wat study the comments of the Dutch government concerning both Bhutan and Nepal during past human rights evaluations? It seems not.

    Current migration effort

    For as far as my information goes at the moment, there is currently no mission from the Netherlands to Nepal to have another group of Bhutanese migrating to the Netherlands. I migth be wrong on that but my source is from IOM so I guess it is like that. Personally I am sorry for that, because I am sure it would be a good thing to expand the Bhutanese community in the Netherlands. As a community integration issues are much more easily addressed and the number of resettled is less than 400 and with that number of people it is difficult to retain identity and help each other. Even here.

    Integration test.

    The Dutch integration test what put into place in 2006 (way before the Bhutanese resettlement started) on the basis of a decision in the European Parliament to which all EU member states are complied to follow. It was not triggered by sentiments in Dutch society but by European Law. The way it was implemented however was – as it should – decided upon by the Dutch government. The fact that anyone – no matter their background – may fail such a test is not a surprise, it’s what tests are about. Your ‘example’ is in my view irrelevant because it does not reflect anything else than someone failing a test. For the sake of comparison: do you know the laws Bhutan has for people migrating to Bhutan? If so, you should appreciate that the Netherlands is still very liberal in its immigration rules. The immigration figures prove that. They are and never have been inline with negative media attention on immigration. Actually, all population figures are rising including ‘first generation allochtones’ in casu migrants. Here are the population figures including the latest from 2011. Notice the increase in all groups.

    I sincerely hope you appreciate my arguments and adjust your comments to a more balanced opinion.

    Best regards and thanks for discussing,
    Alice Anna Verheij

  6. Dear Mr. Dhakal, I know you personally, I am sure you would not because I am couple of years junior to you in study. I have gone through your paragraphs. I feel, it would be great if you could take the positive parts of Dutch and Netherlands. need to be more thankful to those countries and the people of resettlement countries, because we were once dumped by our motherland. Do you think, even after 100 years Bhutan, our motherland would accept resettlement for any refugees? it would be 99.9% no. A successful person never blame to anything, He/She would try to utilise cent percent what ever have already. we can see successfull Indian around the globe, because they always try to adapt in their respective host country keeping intact their culture and language.Blaming and accusing is a source of conflict, hatred, and would get nothing at the end in both sides. I would be really sorry if my writing is offensive or hurts you.

  7. Dear Naresh sir,
    Your comments are not offensive rather I thank you and again and I try to make my points.

    I don’t know where you are now and if you have contacts with any Bhutanese in the Netherlands. If not, let me clarify. I am not trying to curse Holland. I live here and I make a reasonable living. But, I am trying to tell the Bhutanese in the camps, if they have choices, they may opt for other countries – best, the English speaking ones and not the NL.

    This is based on experiences we have in the NL.
    1. Life in the NL is not bad. If you listen to my radio interview, I have tried to make the life in the NL clear. The social system as of today feeds people who are not in labour market. But, if we have opportunities, we need to grasp the best and make our own living and not to depend on others. Not to offend my Bhutanese colleagues in Holland, but as of today all the resettled Bhutanese depend on social support system – either partially or totally. It is not their failure, but the system and language is tough.
    2. Excepting sick people and those who were rejected by other countries for resettlement, majority of the resettled Bhutanese in the NL regret their choices.
    3. Bhutanese resettled in the NL, get a travel document. But with the TD issued to the refugees, it is not possible to get visa (except to India). Many Bhutanese whose parents were dying couldn’t (except 1) make to see them. This is very painful in our society. When I was heading BCN, I tried to assist Bhutanese refugees in this regard. But, always a failure. With Dutch TD’s – USA, Australia and Canada are not to think. Therefore, many Bhutanese are desperately waiting for passports, to see their parents. To obtain a passport, in an average, it takes about 6 years (range Bhutanese is 5.5-8 years).
    4. (This comment is also for Alice). If you compare the progress of Bhutanese in west, that of those in NL, probably is worst, if not runs in the lower line. E.g. as of today only 1 Bhutanese (an asylum-seeker, not the resettled one) has purchased a house, only 10 Bhutanese have managed to secure a driving license, less than 7 are pursuing higher education, etc. But, all have a rented house; get monthly support to make their living.

    I wrote this article, with facts and figures; to tell Bhutanese because I learnt some of the Bhutanese in the camps have recently applied to come to the NL. I repeat again, unless compelled, Bhutanese may not make Holland a choice.

    Naresh sir, many people in the NL tell today, they did not know before they came here. Therefore, my attempt is to tell those in the camps.

    Thanks for reading my article and encouraging me to write again.

    Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal

  8. Dear Lakshmi sir,
    I appreciate your effort to make me clear about the facts and figures of resettled Bhutanese in NL. My point is not to discourage you to share the facts of NL to Bhutanese wanting to resettle to NL. I feel extremely good, however, I feel, there are other intelligent way to share. Our once traumatised mind feel insecure if any Bhutanese fellow try to go against the system of the host country, I does not mean that you went against NL, I am sure you could understand my points. There is a saying in Nepali “Kill the snake without breaking the rod”. Here in Australia, the positive part is only english language then in NL, like in NL federal government helps financially majority of the resettled Bhutanese ( to all Humanitarian entrant) except those who are working. In general, I find negligible Australian Bhutanese are unhappy. We handful of Bhutanese could not change the system, which they have since long time, instead we could change ourself to fit in the system, I mean not total assimilation. I learnt about Bhutanese mission went in US embassey to NL where the outcome was nil. I feel, that could be the good striking point for the Bhutanese to learn the reality. By the way sir, I hope you would not take otherwise. I know Mr. Jigme Gurung in NL.

  9. According to my understanding Dr. Dhakal has neither express his thanks nor ungreatfulness,his article looks like an analitical one. However, I feel no Bhutanese is unthankful to the host contries.With regard to the job oppertunity that I have understood is NL has comparatively less oppertunity than other countries like Canada n US . So if anyone is is looking for resettlement, job wise Canada / US could be best.

  10. No offence to anyone but this article was the expression of a bitter truth in Europe. European society after the 2nd world war went from a individual society to collective society. This creates an imbalance in a society in a longer term. The taxes are god damn high and the gas prices are triple than the US has. In return the government provides things for you. So Europe has lost competitiveness. Europe will eventually fail because more and more people are relying on government handouts. Too much aging population. US is moving to the same path. But US is far from collective society until now. But they are moving towards european path. Unless some one comes and makes a drastic change US and Europe are sure to fail. Asia is a cheating economy except few countries, Europe is collective society, Africa can never grow, Latin america cannot make much difference. US still has the potential to drive the world economy and provide jobs.
    My suggestion is if you are migrating to Europe think twice. In long run Europe is screwed!!!

  11. i dont support some of the point of Dr.Lakshmi Dhakal,But i dont oppose him either too.I am neither a journalist nor a professional writer either.Opinion might have expressed i his own way but Alice seems to be like a more perfect intellectual to me other than Dhakal.Is it that teh Dh.

  12. as i was writing somehow i clicked the wrong botton….my question to alice ??/ Mr.Dhakal might have,,,,,,,,,,,might have,,,,,,,,,,,might have ,,,expressed about the situation only,,after seeing the comments i was pushed down by such a strong writer.Thanks Alice write me,,,my email is up thERE