_______________________________________Let's be tolerant... from a lot farther away
From today's New York Times comes another straw in the wind about Europe's difficulties with and responses to mass immigration. A main Dutch response seems to be mass emigration:
Paul Hiltemann had already noticed a darkening mood in the Netherlands. He runs an agency for people wanting to emigrate and his client list had surged.
But he was still taken aback in November when a Dutch filmmaker was shot and his throat was slit, execution style, on an Amsterdam street.
In the weeks that followed, Mr. Hiltemann was inundated by e-mail messages and telephone calls...
Leave this stable and prosperous corner of Europe? Leave this land with its generous social benefits and ample salaries, a place of fine schools, museums, sports grounds and bicycle paths, all set in a lively democracy?
The answer, increasingly, is yes. This small nation is a magnet for immigrants, but statistics suggest there is a quickening flight of the white middle class. Dutch people pulling up roots said they felt a general pessimism about their small and crowded country and about the social tensions that had grown along with the waves of newcomers, most of them Muslims."The Dutch are living in a kind of pressure cooker atmosphere," Mr. Hiltemann said.
There is more than the concern about the rising complications of absorbing newcomers, now one-tenth of the population, many of them from largely Muslim countries. 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...
Many who settle abroad may not appear in migration statistics, like the growing contingent of retirees who flock to warmer places. But official statistics show a trend. In 1999, nearly 30,000 native Dutch moved elsewhere, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. For 2004, the provisional figure is close to 40,000...
Ruud Konings, an accountant, has just sold his comfortable home in the small town of Hilvarenbeek. In March, after a year's worth of paperwork, the family will leave for Australia. The couple said the main reason was their fear for the welfare and security of their two teenage children.
"When I grew up, this place was spontaneous and free, but my kids cannot safely cycle home at night," said Mr. Konings, 49. "My son just had his fifth bicycle stolen." At school, his children and their friends feel uneasy, he added. "They're afraid of being roughed up by the gangs of foreign kids."...
After Mr. van Gogh's killing, angry demonstrations and fire-bombings of mosques and Muslim schools took place. In revenge, some Christian churches were attacked. Mr. Konings said he and many of his friends sensed more confrontation in the making, perhaps more violence.
"I'm a great optimist, but we're now caught in a downward spiral, economically and socially," he said. "We feel we can give our children a better start somewhere else."...
Dutch demographers say their country has undergone one of Europe's fastest and most far-reaching demographic shifts, with about 10 percent of the population now foreign born, a majority of them Muslims.
Blaming immigrants for many ills has become commonplace. Conservative Moroccans and Turks from rural areas are accused of disdaining the liberal Dutch ways and of making little effort to adapt. Immigrant youths now make up half the prison population. More than 40 percent of immigrants receive some form of government assistance, a source of resentment among native Dutch. Immigrants say, though, that they are widely discriminated against.
Ms. Konings said the Dutch themselves brought on some of the social frictions. The Dutch "thought that we had to adapt to the immigrants and that we had to give them handouts," she said. "We've been too lenient; now it's difficult to turn the tide."
Mr. Buysse, who employs a staff of eight to process visas, concurred. He said farmers were still emigrating as Europe cut agricultural subsidies. '"What is new," he said, "is that Dutch people who are rich or at least very comfortable are now wanting to leave the country."
Voting with their clogs! Unlike most of the rest of Europe, you can't blame it on the economy or jobs. In the Netherlands, unemployment is only 6.5%, although economic growth has only been so-so over the past year (1.3%, but negative last quarter). And Dutch pension problems are nowhere near as bad as Italy or Spain or Germany.