Nuisance, unwelcoming municipalities, protesting local residents… Many stories and opinions about asylum reception in the Netherlands are negative. Yet there are positive experiences. “Why don’t those stories appear in the media?” a NU.nl reader asked us. Her village has fully embraced the arrival of a crisis shelter.
Marjan (a fictitious name) tells NU.nl: “At the end of last year, all residents received a newsletter from the municipality stating that refugees would be accommodated here for five months.”
Because the municipality understood that there were many concerns about this, a meeting was organized where residents could ask their questions, for example about safety. “My first reaction was actually to ask if they needed volunteers,” says Marjan. “The municipality liked that, because initially they only heard people’s concerns. The only thing you see about asylum seekers is what you see on television and in the media, and that often feels threatening.”
Marjan admits that she also found it exciting at first. “You just have a certain image in your head.” When the group was in the shelter for a week, she went there to see what she could do. “I quickly started providing clothes, because people didn’t even have decent shoes.”
“We immediately noticed that people still had to land. They were nervous,” she says. She didn’t think that was strange, since the asylum seekers had already had to move several times. “But we were there every day to see what we could do. You noticed that people dared to talk to us.”
Why we don’t mention the name of the village
At the request of ‘Marjan’ we will not mention which village it concerns in this article. Because although she believes that we as the media should also report a positive story, she is very afraid of the consequences. She fears that opponents of asylum reception will come to her village to protest and ruin the atmosphere. For that reason, Marjan’s name has also been changed.
Marjan’s real name and the location of the shelter are known to the editors. We also verified her story.
Enthusiasm due to the open day
It was decided to organize an open day to show residents what things were like in the shelter. “Everyone wanted to come and have a look. As a result, we received dozens of volunteers.” And not only did more volunteers come, but more action was taken. Clothing was donated “at a rapid pace”. Sports clubs, such as the local football club, offered their location so that the group of asylum seekers could come and play sports. Adults and children.
“Everyone was enthusiastic about that open day. People saw that the asylum seekers were not acting crazy, that they did not look strange and that you could just talk to them. The image we had of them was not what it was like in real life. A lot people spoke English or could make themselves clear with their hands and feet. Some had already started taking Dutch lessons via YouTube when they were still welcomed in such a sports hall.”
The group was “really embraced” by the village, according to Marjan. For example, they received language lessons in the library, the local bicycle repair shop donated bicycles and they received traffic and cycling lessons from the villagers. “Friends have also been made, we go for coffee together. They are very grateful.”
Some asylum seekers managed to find a job with the help of villagers. (illustrative photo)Photo: Getty Images
Advantage that it was a small location
There have never been any problems, says Marian. “But it is also a location with not very many people, there are not hundreds. That is also an advantage. Because you have no control over, for example, five hundred people in a small community.”
The enthusiasm in the village was so great that after five months volunteers knocked on the door of the municipality to ask whether the group of asylum seekers could stay longer. At first the municipality found this difficult, because a promise had been made to the residents. “But because the noise was so strong that we wanted to look at it again, working groups were set up that you could sign up for. We discussed the concerns.”
These conversations showed that people generally wondered why this group had to move again. “A meeting was held about this and it was then decided to extend the crisis care for a year,” says Marjan. So the asylum seekers are still there.
‘They add so much’
“The fact that it has become a success story is mainly because the municipality has been very open to the residents in terms of communication. And many positive stories were also written in the local newspaper to involve the residents in the success.”
“I see all those negative messages, all those gut feelings that people have. I think that is because people have fear and there are already so many problems, such as with housing construction. There is of course a large group of people who are waiting for a home, but asylum seekers are only a small part of that. Yet they are the target and I think that is unfair.”
“If you can say something positive and there are more municipalities that are persuaded by this, then people might start to look at it differently,” says Marjan. “They add so much. They are also willing to give something back, willing to go to work. Unfortunately, this is made difficult for them if they have to move often and have nowhere to settle.”
Get notifications of new posts Stay informed with notifications