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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
'I feel part of Dutch society'

BBC News Online readers have been telling us their experiences as migrants - why they left, what they like about their new countries and what they miss from the place they left behind.

Pakistani Zaffar Siddiqui is one of the 26,000 people who could face deportation from the Netherlands under a new bill which is to be voted on by the upper house of parliament.

My story is probably similar to many others.

I came to the Netherlands from Pakistan, at a time when my country was suffering under the incompetence and corruption of the Nawaz Sharif government.

I decided that the best way to provide for my family was to move to a place where it would be possible to make a decent living from within a "normally" functioning society.

It felt as though we were fully functioning members of this Dutch society... The only problem was that we had not yet received official permission to stay
The then liberal and tolerant attitude of the Dutch was specially interesting to my wife and I.

I originally tried to obtain resident status in the Netherlands but was refused on the grounds of being a non-EU citizen.

Fortunately a fellow countryman with a business in the Netherlands gave me an employment contract which enabled me to stay for a short while on a legal basis although with no recourse to permanent residential status.

So began several years of communications with the justice ministry regarding their refusal to grant me permanent resident status.

Part of society

As I began earning I began paying taxes.

I was issued a Dutch national insurance number and with this tenuous foot in the doorway I was able to consolidate my status within Dutch society.

The firm which had originally employed was doing well. I was offered, and took, a partnership in the firm. I became a shareholder and was registered with the relevant chamber of commerce.

I received a good salary and was able to afford all the normal trappings available to any citizen of the Netherlands.

On one occasion, the duty officer at the naturalisation office was most helpful in offering me ways of prolonging the procedure
I got a car and had my international driving licence transferred to a legal Dutch driving licence.

My wife became pregnant with our first child - she was delivered in a Dutch hospital. The maternity costs were covered by my Dutch health insurance.

Our second daughter was born almost two years later.

They both went to day-care centres and received child benefits because they were registered at birth at the local town hall.

In other words it felt as though I and my family were fully functioning members of this Dutch society.

The only problem was that we had not yet received official permission to stay.

Although the authorities never actually said I would be able to stay - indeed I was ordered to leave on a number of occasions - they never made much effort to get me out of the country.

On one occasion, the duty officer at the naturalisation office was most helpful in offering me ways of prolonging the procedure, thereby extending my ability to remain in the country by at least another year.

I was left with the impression that it could take a couple of years but that I would eventually be permitted to remain legally in the Netherlands with my family.

Stressful situation

I am now self-employed, serving a mainly Dutch clientele.

We live in a predominantly native Dutch suburb. My children go to a school where there are only three other foreign nationals. Most of their friends are Dutch.

The situation however remains stressful and disheartening
They speak no Urdu since the language we use at home is either Dutch or English.

My children, like most children in the Netherlands, have wonderful prospects - it is terrible that these are now being taken away from them.

As I said before, nothing was promised by the authorities but having let the situation drag on for so long the government has allowed certain expectations to germinate among those of us who do contribute to Dutch society in a real and positive way.

Of course we could return to Pakistan, our lives are not, indeed never were, in mortal danger - but we wanted a better life for ourselves and our family.

For this we were, and are, prepared to work desperately hard, to pay our dues, to respect the laws and customs of the Netherlands and to participate fully in promoting goodwill and prosperity in our local community.

In Holland there is a saying: "The soup is never eaten as hot as it is served." Perhaps once the political point scoring is over, and the reality of expelling so many people finally sinks in, there will be more delays and legal wrangling and we may be able to extend our stay until the girls are through their initial education.

The situation however remains stressful and disheartening, and the intended policy is ultimately unworthy of what was once perhaps the most inclusive and understanding society in Europe.

Your comments:

The Netherlands should stop seeing itself as a victim of immigration
Zhong Wu Yan, Achterop

With all the news I hear and read from the local media, and how I was dealt with by immigrations, it's hard to imagine that the Netherlands is not racist or at least anti-foreigner. The Netherlands should stop seeing itself as a victim of immigration, perhaps then they can come up with some sensible policies and deal with the problems pragmatically.
Zhong Wu Yan, Achterop, the Netherlands

I find that, although sad, this migration bill will benefit the Netherlands more than it will hurt it. So in that light, it is the right thing for the Netherlands government to do. Even though a lot of jobs will have to be filled to compensate, it will also reduce the population density and open more possibilities for other Dutch. So it is beneficial to the Dutch economy.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Grantsburg, USA

I'm my opinion; you have to pursue your choice. If you don't feel better in one place, you have to move. Certainly, in your country you will live happier.
Rosana Esteves, Bélem, Brazil

I think that we are largely a welcoming nation, but with a population approaching 17 million the place is getting somewhat overcrowded. We are not racist at all, but we do have the right to control migration into our small, and very flat, country.
Karin, Delft, Netherlands

I moved to the Netherlands over four years ago from Britain, in search of a better life. I found it here. I find it very sad for the 26,000 people who must return to there homelands. But what we must remember is that these 26,000 were never told by the Dutch government that they could stay in The Netherlands. It would be a different story if they had been promised that.
Matthew Scarth, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


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