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Mark Klaassen and Olaf van Vliet discuss European labour migrants in FD

The Netherlands cannot stop European labour migrants coming here. Nor does The Hague have much influence on the influx of asylum seekers. But experts believe that we should be able to reduce the need for labour migrants by using intelligent economic policies.

Mark Klaassen

Labour migration was the topic of a recently published article in Dutch newspaper ‘Het Financieele Dagblad (€), as the closing article in a series on population growth.

When it comes to labour migrants, most attention is given to asylum seekers. Last year, approximately 25,000 came here. Over the last few months, in response to the images of an overcrowded application centre in Ter Apel, there have been calls for an asylum stop. That is impossible, says migration specialist Mark Klaassen in the article. ‘Our national regulations are an implementation of European legislation. When someone puts their hand up and meets the requirements, we don't have the possibility to turn them down. There is no quorum.’

There is also little room to manoever for national policy makers when it comes to family reunion. Even the repatriation of asylum seekers without prospects from safe countries – a small group that often causes disturbances – is difficult because countries of origin, such as Morocco, refuse to cooperate. Klaassen: ‘It's apparently very difficult to get certain countries to agree to take their own subjects back.’

Olaf van Vliet

The Dutch Government may not have that much to say about its own borders, but it can make economic choices that result in a rise or decline in the demand for labour migrants. ‘You certainly have some influence using policy’, says Professor of Economics Olaf van Vliet in the same article. ‘But that requires a political trade-off. Are you aiming exclusively for the highest possible GDP? And do you accept the problems caused by companies as a result?’ Van Vliet believes that governments should widen their scope. Prosperity is more than just the GDP alone, according to him.

‘In some sectors production is mainly for the export, even though this puts enormous pressure on the surrounding area. Take the greenhouses in the Westland region, for instance. They depend on labour migrants.  The government could, for instance, raise the levies on CO₂ emissions. That might not be good for companies, but it would reduce pressure and it leads to a reduction in CO₂ emissions. Because of the energy crisis, the careful timing of such measures is very important.’

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