Two Dutch cities to impose illegal checks on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants
Rotterdam and The Hague to deny citizen service number to new arrivals
People walking in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Hague and Rotterdam are to impose illegal new checks on Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants when nationals from the countries are allowed free movement within the EU, from January 1st. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Two of the largest cities in the Netherlands are to defy the Dutch government and Brussels and impose illegal new checks on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants when nationals from the two are allowed free movement within the EU, from January 1st.
Despite a warning it will be discriminatory, Rotterdam and The Hague say they will deny the usual citizen service number (BSN) – that allows new arrivals to register for tax and social welfare – to Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants who fail to satisfy housing and employment requirements.
Pointing out that when the two countries joined the EU in 2007, the number of Bulgarians in the Netherlands increased tenfold while the number of Romanians tripled, the two cities say they believe an unregulated influx could lead to social unrest.
Both cities have agreed to reverse the usual way of processing immigrants.
From the new year, they plan to ask Romanian and Bulgarian arrivals to provide evidence of suitable accommodation and legitimate employment before issuing the citizen service number.
If they cannot comply, the number will be refused.
“An unregulated open door has the potential to put additional pressure on overcrowded flats and houses, and the only ones who win will be unscrupulous landlords and employers exploiting desperate immigrants,” said Hamit Karakus, a Rotterdam alderman of Turkish descent.
“The government and Brussels tell us that the law prevents us from doing this, but we are going to do it anyway.
“If they want to, they will have to stop us and explain why.”
But the reality, it appears, is that the Dutch government itself has concerns about the number of Bulgarians and Romanians who may arrive – and it believes Brussels isn’t listening.
Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher, of Labour, warned The Hague and Rotterdam their proposals would be illegal and that, “if you have an agreement with other countries, you have to keep it”.
He also warned unfettered free movement “sounds a code orange alert for the European labour market”.
In an article co-written with David Goodhart, director of UK think tank Demos, Mr Asscher said the resettlement of so many people from eastern Europe had “a disruptive effect on some of our poorer and less well-educated citizens in the richer EU states, such as the UK and the Netherlands”.
The Dutch government has been watching with growing concern a series of moves by right-wing leader Geert Wilders to form a pan-European, anti-Brussels alliance in advance of next spring’s European elections.