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Pakistanis in Netherlands

How many Pakistanis are living in the Netherlands? It is both an easy as well as a complicated question. It is easy to answer if we look at the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). According to this national body there were 23, 9000 Pakistanis in the Netherlands in early 2018. However, if we ask a common Pakistani in the Netherlands, he will mention their number around 50,000. Interestingly a Pakistani embassy official also came to this number when asked.

This exaggeration in numbers can be understood through the ‘insecurities’ in which the migrant communities perceived themselves. A self-perception of a ‘large community’ ensures them of their strength in a migrant setting. Considering the number of Pakistani religious and welfare organisations, and a casual visit to these locations also shows that exaggerated count of Pakistanis is mere a wishful thinking on their parts For our own perception we will use the data of CBS to describe the number of Pakistanis in the Netherlands. The majority of Pakistanis lives in three major cities, Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam.

Following The Hague Council there are almost six thousand Pakistanis living there. Almost similar number would be in two other larger councils of Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, although these City councils did not mentioned the numbers of smaller migrant communities in their data. About a thousand Pakistanis are living in Almere, while the rest of the cities and towns in the Netherlands do not have a noteworthy numbers of Pakistanis.

The majority of Pakistanis came in the 1970s in the Netherlands. The early migration occurred due mostly due to economic reasons. Soon the early groups were joined by many asylum seekers from Pakistan who fled the land following martial regime in Pakistan. This early migration followed by a chain migration process through which other family members of the migrants followed them in the Netherlands. Contrary to the UK, the Netherlands did not have a single neighbourhood with a major Pakistani concentration. However, in areas like Schilderswijk in The Hague or Rotterdam South have substantial numbers of Pakistanis. From 1990s onwards the major migration trend among Pakistanis was due to marriage migration.

The first generation of Pakistanis, with mostly poor Dutch language, usually did manual jobs at larger companies like Schiphol, oil refineries or flower companies, or market trades, while some have developed their own taxi-companies or restaurants. A number of Pakistanis, mostly first generation were also jobless with poor socio-economic conditions. The liberalisation in telecom sector and taxi-companies helped many migrants to invest in these fields. Thus in early 2000s, more than 70% of tele-internet shops in Amsterdam were run by the Pakistanis. The second generation developed a more diverse employment field. Many are professionals like doctors, advocates, and in IT companies. They are also active in middle income groups like shop-owners, taxi-companies.

Amer Morgahi

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