Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Migrants in between. The construction of illegal and temporal migration, 1945-2000

Subproject of "Differences that make all the difference. Gender, migration and vulnerability (migration to the Netherlands 1945-2005)"

2006 - 2012
Marlou Schrover
NWO Vici NWO Vici

Since the 1950’s the Netherlands has changed from a country with low numbers of immigrants into a multicultural and multicoloured society. Many immigrants who entered the country in the post-war decades decided to stay. They have built a new life for themselves and their families. Yet there was an increasing group of immigrants whose stay had a provisional character, either by force of circumstances or by choice. On the one hand there were (and are) ‘irregular migrants’ who lacked the necessary permits or papers. They were condemned to a marginal and invisible existence until they finally left the country, were deported or succeeded in changing their status. On the other hand there were regular migrants who came to work in the Netherlands and never left, despite the intended temporal character of this migration. Although many resided in the Netherlands for a long period of time, they did not always intend to stay forever. Some did indeed return, many more only talked and dreamed of returning. The strong ties with their home country and the image of a future life elsewhere gave their stay in the Netherlands a provisional character. My research focuses on this border area, on the construction of ‘provisional’ migrants who arrived and more or less settled but were never firmly embedded in Dutch society. Special attention will be drawn to state policy. State immigration policy contributed or even created this ‘country in between’ and was a main actor for changes. Strict immigration regulations created illegal immigration. Likewise the constant emphasis on the temporal character of labour migration and the unwillingness to accept that the Netherlands had changed into a country of immigration strengthened the orientation of labour migrants towards the home country and towards an eventual return. The construction of illegal and temporal migration is not restricted to the Netherlands and no more are actions against immigrants who lacked the necessary papers. Developments in the Netherlands will be compared to those in other countries. 

Gender will be another focus in the research. Regulations and implementations distinguish (directly and indirectly) between men and women. Besides, motives and possibilities to migrate to the Netherlands, to stay there or to return are different for men and women. The risk to end up in the border area of provisional migration and the chances to leave this area may well have been different for men and women.

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