No open borders while serious housing shortage persists

29 March 2007

No open borders while serious housing shortage persists

As long as no respectable housing is available for workers from central and eastern Europe, borders must not be subject to further opening. So said SP Member of Parliament and employment spokesman Paul Ulenbelt during today's parliamentary question time. Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner, however, refused to consider making any connection between open borders and the abominable housing conditions which await the majority of such workers.

Paul Ulenbelt "Yesterday a councillor from The Hague, speaking on behalf of the four biggest local authorities, made a convincing statement which called on the government not at the present time to open borders any further to central and eastern European workers, on the grounds that these workers will fall into the hands of exploitative landlords," said Paul Ulenbelt. "Employment agencies are buying up cheap apartments and installing six, ten or sometimes twelve people who must then live under pitiable conditions. The councils are convinced that any further opening of the borders would lead to the run-down of certain neighbourhoods, for the most part precisely those which the government has said it will improve.

"Yesterday a number of officials from the local council of The Hague took me on a tour. I have seen these apartments. One, for example, was a small flat stuffed with twelve mattresses. There were even mattresses in the cupboard under the stairs and in the shed. Each of the twelve inhabitants was paying € 200 per mattress per month, so that the owner of the place was raking in € 2400 a month for a flat which would otherwise be let out for a total of € 400.

"I have two questions for the minister. Will you bring yourself up to date with these abuses? And will you listen to the convincing call from these councils, a call which the national trade union federation has this morning endorsed?"

"The housing of Polish workers is a separate issue to that of whether or not we should open our borders," the minister replied. Borders are currently open only to workers hired to do jobs for which it can be demonstrated that it would be difficult to find personnel, but the government is determined to open them fully as quickly as possible, despite the warnings from the country's four biggest cities.

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