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Whose crisis is this?

Opinion piece can also be read on the limburger

Over the past few weeks, we, as the council group of Volt in Maastricht, saw a heated debate develop between the Maastricht groups of the VVD (the conservative liberals) and the SP (the socialists), no doubt recognizable to readers elsewhere in Limburg. The debate began after the horrific images from Ter Apel. The VVD asked the municipal executives of our local government to guarantee that native Maastrichtians would have priority over asylum seekers in the distribution of social rental housing in the current "migrant crisis". That crisis I put here, as chairman of Volt Maastricht, deliberately in quotation marks. Because whose crisis is this really?

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Jules Ortjens

According to the familiar framing, the Netherlands would be flooded with asylum seekers right now. However, the figures show a different reality. The number of asylum seekers per capita in the Netherlands is at the European average and even below the relative number of asylum seekers received by Germany and Belgium. So how is it that the Netherlands is once again failing to regulate these migrant flows?

System crisis

The answer, of course, lies in The Hague. For this is not a migrant crisis, but a political system crisis. The Netherlands recently reduced the number of reception places for asylum seekers: no one in The Hague seems to be able to explain why that happened. And yet the Dutch government seems surprised that the Netherlands can no longer cope with today's relatively stable asylum flows.

The Correspondent recently rightly concluded that, in this way, the asylum crisis remains a five-year "stay on the Hague menu. 'It's all about the money,' one might conclude. But if this short-term frugality amounts to reproducing crises, you don't have to be an economic prodigy to conclude that cheap is expensive in the long run. When Hague's thriftiness prevents society from preparing for changing situations, it becomes very easy to slap a crisis label on every development.

Housing Crisis

For this reason, we are also in the midst of a housing crisis. It applies to residents like you and me, young and old, working and studying, citizens and asylum seekers. The neoliberal Dutch government has known for almost a decade that there is too little housing for all these groups of people. Nevertheless, they have been able to privatize nicely. In the absence of strong government (a classic liberal ideal), housing has ceased to be a human right and become a revenue model. The Netherlands is in danger of becoming a North Atlantic tax haven in which all primary needs have been turned into valuable products, for which people also have to compete with each other. The national branch of the conservative VVD knew this and has done almost nothing about it; and party members around the country now look mostly critically at the asylum seekers themselves, as if that is where the problem lies. That irony is painful.

Fortunately, at the Maastricht level, municipal executives is working very hard to cope with the number of asylum applicants. But that's a tough task when national politics have been uncooperative for a decade. And it becomes even more difficult when Limburg politicians begin to adopt the Hague language of acrimonious neoliberalism.

It seems to be a difference between two realities. Do you primarily want a humane society, or a society that runs on a revenue model? Should we opt for the radicalised capitalist model of "Netherlands Inc", we will increasingly have to deal with these kinds of inhumane issues. In this way, Europeans are no longer citizens but customers. Free market philosophy will then take center stage, with 'housing' as a rare and valuable product: 'Who will get a roof over their head first? Client number 24239? Or asylum seeker BQ-2918?'

Jules Ortjens is chairman of Volt's city council group in Maastricht

Read more about this topic, from a European dimension? Then read the blog of our MEP Damian Boeselager here