“There are probably thousands of people working illegally in our country as cleaners, hairdressers, nannies, or in the catering industry. In the crisis, they are now the first to lose their job, i.e. their income. Forced to return to their country of origin is often their only option now.” (In Dutch)

Thousands of illegal migrant workers work in the Netherlands – coming here via a tourist visa and sticking around for work. They are part of an informal economy that has been tolerated by the Netherlands for years, but due to the corona crisis, they get into trouble and are forced to leave.

“In the Netherlands, we try to regulate everything,” says Adwin van Dijke of the Company of Friends Foundation. With tax measures and support for self-employed people.

The irregular migrant workers have not paid premiums and taxes because they do not have a residence permit. Their income stops so that they cannot pay the rent, often illegally. “What we notice is that we get a lot of calls from people in panic. What now? I can’t pay the rent, but I do have two children.”

Did you choose to?

Van Dijke can imagine that people think: they have opted for illegal work, so it is not surprising that they are not entitled to anything. “In fact, those people have come here and been tolerated. We knew a lot of people weren’t legal, maybe it’s reasonable to help these people go back.”

“We know that people in nail salons and domestic workers are not all legal. We have accepted and tolerated all of that.” This group now often needs to go back home, in many cases to Brazil.

Less room for the informal economy

Due to the corona crisis, the economy is changing, including the informal part. “There may be less room for these people.” Not just the economy, everything will be different. For example, if apps are used to combat the virus, this group can’t use these.

“That’s 10 thousand people. These people are at greater risk than someone legal. I think it’s right to mention that, without pointing fingers.”

Many of them now report to the Dutch government, which pays for their ticket home. Company of Friends also works with the International Organization for Migration, which helps them with some money to continue the journey after returning.

‘Give the correct info’

Van Dijke calls on the government to take this group seriously and delve into it. “Give these people the correct info.” He notices that stories are circulating about Portugal where illegal immigrants would get a residence permit so that some now expect that in the Netherlands as well.” People hear what they want to hear and cling to very small things. Be clear.”

(Source:  NPO Spraakmakers, 9 April 2020)

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