Controversy surrounds the PVV's 'Anti Immigrant' website
In early February, the anti-immigrant PVV party debuted a website titled Reporting Point, Central and Eastern Europeans, which invites Dutch residents to fill out a complaint form if they’re having problems with expats from these areas.
It almost immediately caused a virtual tsunami of controversy across the nation and the rest of the European Union. Critics of the site have decried it, arguing that it will only fan the flames of intolerance across Holland and beyond.
Xenophobia on the rise in the Netherlands
There’s no escaping the fact that xenophobia is on the rise here in the Netherlands, especially towards immigrants from the East. According to one estimate, the country has a population of 125.000 expats from Central and Eastern Europe, roughly 80% of whom hail from Poland. Most work in farming and agriculture.
In recent years, many Dutch citizens have become frustrated by reports of public drunkenness, minor crimes, vandalism, job losses and other problems supposedly caused by these immigrants. Recently, the Dutch government also took steps towards banning the burqa.
About the PVV (The Party for Freedom)
The PVV ("The Party for Freedom") is at the centre of the ongoing immigration debate. The party, which rose to power in the Dutch Parliament during the mid-to-late 2000s, has continually promoted anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric.
In recent years, it has sought to close Islamic schools, prevent the immigration of citizens from Muslim countries and it advocates that the dominant culture of the Netherlands should remain Judeo-Christian. The PVV, which currently holds 24 seats in the Parliament, making it the third largest party in the country, is also opposed to dual-citizenship for Dutch residents.
About Geert Wilders
Party-leader Geert Wilders is one of, if not the most, controversial politician in the country. Notoriously outspoken, Wilders has earned a reputation for being both hot-headed and passionately anti-immigrant. Among other things, he’s compared the Quran to Mein Kampf, has sought to have the religious tome banned and is convinced that immigrants cause "street terror" across the Netherlands.
As a result of his views, Wilders was temporarily banned from setting foot in the UK in 2009 and has repeatedly faced intense criticism and legal challenges locally. Throughout 2009 - 2011, he was on trial for hate crimes in the Netherlands but was acquitted of all charges last June.
Reporting point, Central and Eastern Europeans
It should come as no surprise that a photo of Wilders is one of the first things that greets visitors to the Reporting Point, Central and Eastern Europeans website. Alongside the politician’s smiling face, the site features questions like "Do you have a problems with people from Central and Eastern Europe?" and "Have you lost your job to a Pole, Bulgarian, Romanian or other Eastern European? We want to know."
It also includes images of (photoshoped?) newspaper headlines including: "Wouldn’t it Be Better if You Went Back?" and "Eastern Europeans, Increasingly Criminal."
Shortly after the website’s debut, the PVV announced that it "was a hit" and that they’ve received over 30.000 completed forms from visitors. Meanwhile, it has also received a good deal of criticism both here in the Netherlands and abroad.
The European Commission has condemned the website and The Romanian Ministry of Foreign affairs has asked Dutch authorities to take action. Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Commission released a statement arguing that, "Citizens should instead clearly state on the PVV’s website that Europe is a place of freedom. Intolerance has no place on our Continent."
The PVV’s website has also inspired several online parodies, asking residents to submit complaints about Belgians, people from the southern province of Limburg and certain Dutch politicians.
On February 13, the ambassadors of 10 Central and Eastern European countries issued an open letter to Dutch party leaders further condemning the site. Wilders’ response? That it was a "waste of paper." He has also gone on record as saying, that as far as the PVV’s website is concerned, "Europe can get stuffed."
Many are calling on Prime Minister Mark Rutte to criticise the site but, so far, he has refused to comment. The most recent development in all of this: the European Parliament is scheduled to tackle the debate during a session on March 13 in Strasbourg.
What are your own thoughts about the PVV’s website? Should it be condemned by Prime Minister Rutte? Should the party be allowed to run it? Does it further encourage xenophobia and hate in the Netherlands?
Share your opinion in the comments area below.