Discrimination can occur on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or other differentiators. Xenophobia is discrimination against non-nationals and, migrants in particular, are affected. Migrants are often discriminated against in education, health, employment, and housing. In the Netherlands, ethnic discrimination has witnessed a dramatic increase following the massive influx of Syrian refugees into Europe. For many migrants, the experience has been a familiar one.
Abdelkader, a 20-year-old Syrian refugee, migrated from his war-ravaged country to the Netherlands six years ago when he was just 14. Like any other Dutch adolescent, he attended secondary school. But in contrast to others in his age group, he possessed advanced language skills, speaking his native tongue and becoming fluent in both Dutch and English.
Abdelkader completed his secondary education with top marks and is keen on pursuing his education further at the university level. However, neither of his parents have the financial resolve necessary to support him since they have been unable to find work in the country. Consequently, Abdelkader is forced to find a part-time job to help cover his tuition costs. Ideally, he would like to find one that is related to computer science. In the past year, he applied to more than a hundred jobs, ranging from grocery and retail stores to cafes and restaurants – all of which did not require a degree, and could have utilized his impressive language and customer service skills. However, not a single employer reached out to him for an interview.
Yet, Abdelkader’s Dutch friends – Tiel, Wessel, and Willem – all with similar experiences but without comparable language skills, have found themselves similar jobs within a month’s span.
It is easy to understand the source of Abdelkader’s frustration. Being turned away by employers on the basis of name and/or ethnicity is discriminatory.
As a last resort and perhaps experimentally, Abdelkader sent off another job application using the name Daan as a pseudonym. One week later, and not to his surprise, he got invited in for an interview.
Abdelkader’s case is neither unique nor unprecedented as his story is shared by many refugees in the country, whether they are trying to find employment or housing. Further, no age category is safe from such discrimination.
For many refugees, discrimination based on ethnicity and race is a big issue because it deprives skilled and motivated people of opportunities for a better future in the Netherlands. United Way the Netherlands believes it is unacceptable to receive different treatment because of the way you spell your name. This is why they do everything in their power to combat discrimination and provide equal opportunities for everyone in the communities they focus on. To this end, they are working with corporate partners to raise awareness, offer cultural orientation programs and provide training for the best possible employment opportunities.
United Way the Netherlands is engaged in several projects aimed at empowering and supporting refugees in the country.