February 27, 2005

Who's emigrating for political reasons?

The NYT reports on the large number of Dutch citizens who are eager to emigrate:
Many Dutch also seem bewildered that their country, run for decades on a cozy, political consensus, now seems so tense and prickly and bent on confrontation. Those leaving have been mostly lured by large English-speaking nations like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where they say they hope to feel less constricted.

In interviews, emigrants rarely cited a fear of militant Islam as their main reason for packing their bags. But the killing of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a fierce critic of fundamentalist Muslims, seems to have been a catalyst.

"Our Web site got 13,000 hits in the weeks after the van Gogh killing," said Frans Buysse, who runs an agency that handles paperwork for departing Dutch. "That's four times the normal rate."

Mr. van Gogh's killing is the only one the police have attributed to an Islamic militant, but since then they have reported finding death lists by local Islamic militants with the names of six prominent politicians. The effects still reverberate. In a recent opinion poll, 35 percent of the native Dutch questioned had negative views about Islam.

There are no precise figures on the numbers now leaving. But Canadian, Australian and New Zealand diplomats here said that while immigration papers were processed in their home capitals, embassy officials here had been swamped by inquiries in recent months.
One man who is leaving is quoted saying, "I'm a great optimist, but we're now caught in a downward spiral, economically and socially." The article notes that those who are leaving are affluent and successful: "urban professionals, managers, physiotherapists, computer specialists." There is also a lot of talk about the lack of "living space" in the country, and the antipathy toward nonnatives seems generic and not limited to violent factions. This is truly sad and frightening.

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