If you want to understand this you simply have to listen to the below excerpt from a planet money interview with Mark Zandi the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics and contrast that with the petit bourgeois, xenophobic attitude towards immigration that is prevailing in Europe:
and again, fundamentally we are fine. we can’t loose the sight of what makes our economy really tick though and that is: the most educated population, the best infrastructure and most importantly of all that we continue to attract the best and brightest from all over the planet, because as long as we can do that we are gonna be just fine.
John Hooper’s report from Coccaglio near Brescia brought together much of what is wrong with modern Italy in one seasonal package, all perfectly presented in extravagant wrapping paper and tied up with a great bow in the way that only Italians can manage. Christmas in Coccaglio, Hooper reports, is being marked by a house-to-house search for illegal (ie black) immigrants. The search, which is sponsored by the local Northern League-controlled council, has officially been dubbed Operation White Christmas and finishes, ho ho ho, on 25 December. One Coccaglio councillor has said Christmas is a feast of Christian identity, not a celebration of hospitality. The whole crackdown has been complimented and backed by Silvio Berlusconi’s government.
Over the last couple of days there has been a disproportionate amount of attention for a albino migrant named Moszy who, back in march, arrived together with 60 other a African migrants on the Spanish island of Tenerife. Moszy, who is said to have fled his native Benin where he was frequently abducted and used in magic rituals, has requested asylum in Spain, and it appears that the spanish government is willing to grant him refugee status. Now i am all against abducting people and using them in magic rituals (and possibly killing them in ‘grisly ritualistic killings’), but it appears to me that the media coverage is bordering a little bit on the absurd:
The price for the most absurd headline (so far) goes to the Croatian news agency ‘Javno’ claiming ‘Spain Saves Albino African from Sure Death‘ (which for some reason is buried in World > World Report > Bizarre [sic!]). Of course spain did no such thing, to the contrary: Spain (together with the rest of the EU countries) did everything it could to get Moszy (and the other 60 passengers of the boat that took him to Tenerife) killed. In its ongoing attempt to keep (black) Africans in Africa, Spain has forced migrants attempting to get into europe to take longer and more dangarous routes (from Nouakchott to Tenerife it is more than 1000km across the open Atlantic Ocean). This has resulted in many deaths that generally receive much less media attention than one albino arriving in Tenerife.
According to the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelblad, Moszy’s asylum request has been backed by a spokesperson of the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid, arguing that sending him back to Africa (as it is foreseen for the other 60 passengers) ‘would put his life at rist’. Makes me wonder if sending back the other 60 passengers who barely made it onto Spanish soil does not put their life at risk? Chances are that they will make another attempt to get to Europe and if past experience is any indicator some of them will pay for this with their lives. But you do not hear the CEAR spoksperson or the media talk about their lives being in danger. But then they did not have the privilege of being born with white skin either, so why should they care?
During Thursdays Anniek van Hardeveld memorial race i was doing a checkppoint (yes i know i am getting lazy and slow these days…) on the head of java island. The checkpoint was at the memorial for the employees of the N.V. Nederlandse Scheepvaartmaatschapij who had died ‘at sea or wherever on the shore’ while defending the ‘liberty of their country’.
The memorial is a rather simple one made from stone. It has a 3 meter-or-so high stone base on top of which there is a 3 meter high sculpture of a sailor gazing to the west (into the sunset? after his dead comrades? at Amsterdam central station?). The base of the monument is covered by plates of shiny black marble (or something like that). Inscribed in gold on these plates are the names of the employees who died between 1940 and 1945.
Now while waiting for the first racers to arrive i started to read the names and was stuck by the fact that every second of them sounded non-dutch to me (which of course is not strange at al as we are talking about sailors here who have always been a motley crue). Took me a while to figure out that i was in fact looking at the section of the monument that lists non-dutch people. that’s right, when they set up this monument these freedom-lovin’, injustice-hatin’ Dutch people decided not to mix then names of the Dutch people and foreigners who had sailed, fought and died together. Instead they decided to list them in separate sections of the monument, The dutch with first and last names and the others only with what seems to be their last names/nick names:
Now the monument was set up in 1950, and lots of people have argued that it was ok for the Dutch to be a little bit racist back then (like it was ok that the first thing the Dutch did after being liberated was sending troops to indonesia to make sure they could go on repressing the locals some more). Guess the times were indeed a bit different then, but the fact that nobody bothers to change this fuck-up while once a year an official delegation comes along to lay down flowers also tells a fair bit about our times. So this post is dedicated to the memory of:
Just came across an article in todays NRC [‘import-bride has to know thorbecke’] about the dutch gouvernement moves towards requiring a Dutch language and culture exam before a person is allowed to settle in the Netherlands. not that this means that by passing the exams you have the right to settle in NL, but if you have acquired the right to settle e.g because you are married to a dutch citizen or someone who has a residence permit you still neet to pass the tests or you won’t get in. (of course all of this does not applies to citizens of the eu, Switzerland, the us, canada australia and new zealand).
So you have to pass a test on dutch history and society (mainly testing stuff that dutch people have been taught in school immediately forgotten afterwards) and a language test. the language test is suposed to be completely computerized. the test will be conducted via a telephone line form special rooms in dutch embassies and consulates around the world. the computer is not only serving the questions and judging your answers (it has to asses complex things like re-narrations of short stories which as far as i can tell is quite daunting task in itself given the current state of technology). also the verdict of the computer is final there is no possibility of appealing a verdict once given. also for each attempt at the 30 minute test euro 350 has to be paid up-front by the applicant.
If i remember it correctly my last encounter with complex speech recognition technology dates back three years or so and at that point i failed to book a train ticket via the phone answering to simple questions in my mother language. that a centralized computer system can cope with 1001 accents that it is inevitably going to encounter seems to be completely unrealistic to me. so maybe we are starting to see a new form of migration management this time with ‘objective’ computer technology acting as a filter. if this becomes practice (the system does exist but its use still needs to be authorized by parliament) you can fulfill all the legal requirements for settling in the netherlands and still not be granted entry because the computer des not get your accent (or the software fails altogether or the phone line is bad or because you are chinese and cant pronunce the R and the computer wants you to pronunce ‘gras’ (speaking of dutch culture here aren’t we) but you only manage to say ‘glas’…