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The Netherland as a new home: The challenges & opportunities

By D.P. Mainali

The Netherlands is a small country almost the same size as that of Bhutan & located in the northwestern part of Europe. The Netherlands borders the North Sea towards the north & west, Belgium towards the south and Germany to the east. The estimated population of the Netherlands is approximately 17 millions, consisting of different ethnic groups among which 81% are people of Dutch origin. The Netherland is one of the more secular countries in Western Europe, with only 39% of the population being religiously affiliated.

It is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy. The monarch is the head of state and at present Queen Beatrix heads the state. The capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government is The Hague. The Netherland is divided into 12 different Dutch provinces. A Dutch province represents the administrative layer in between the national government and the local municipalities. Every provinces & municipalities are competent to regulate & administrate their internal affairs but must work within the national legal framework, loyally implement national government policy and are subject to central control.

The Netherland’s constitution is well defined. Chapter one of the Netherland’s constitution clearly explains equalities before laws. Crimes and discrimination are prohibited. There are equal opportunities for the freedom of religion, speech and press. Besides these, every one has identical rights for freedom of association, freedom of assembly, right of privacy, secrecy of communication, labor rights and equal opportunities for education. Everyone who legally stays in the Netherland is allowed to exercise all the fundamental rights but also forced to obey duties & laws of obligations. Enjoying rights is easy but obeying duties and obligations seems difficult particularly for immigrants.

Although the Netherland is a small and economically strong country with numerous opportunities but all opportunities are bounded by challenging duties. For immigrants in particular, every opportunity is challenging due to language barrier. The word ‘Dutch’ is used to refer language and people of the Netherlands. Majority of the Dutch people are kind, helpful & straightforward but the language is very tough. It is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn and to master. Even though the government of Netherland puts enormous efforts in providing basic language and integration courses, it seems insufficient even for the qualified people. Because of the language barrier many of the qualified immigrants are enforced to change their profession of interest and land up somewhere, never thought and dreamt before. Therefore, the language barriers can be and is proven to one of the most challenging factors for immigrants in the Netherlands, if not to all at least to the Bhutanese people.

Starting from early 2003, very few Bhutanese managed to reach the Netherland, but from 2008 under Refugee Resettlement Program population of Bhutanese is increasing. Up to now (end 2009) the total population of Bhutanese in The Netherland is around 160. In few years time, this numbers will rise. As far as I observe, Dutch language might be one of the challenging factors for Bhutanese too. Some of the senior Bhutanese people have been already experiencing this effect; directly and already, & more challenges may lie ahead before things turn around.

Besides, language difficulties, there are various other challenges for Bhutanese immigrants such as education and job opportunities. For these reasons, some questions to ask ourselves are: What opportunities are available that can be leveraged to solve current problems, & where can we find them? How can we collaborate with Dutch government or other organizations to extend our resources? The answer of these questions might give some solutions to individual’s problems.

Yes, life is challenging here for everyone. This is a challenging time; economically speaking, but it is also a time of great opportunity for those who are open-minded & well informed. Lack of information about diverse opportunities some time generates a big gap. Therefore with the intention of extending help among each other, Bhutanese in the Netherlands have come up with an idea of forming Bhutanese Community in the Netherlands (BCN). BCN is a non-political & not for profit welfare forum, thus a community. This is a common platform for entire Bhutanese society to share our energy of love, hope & connection. Relationship with in our society might solve some of our challenges & may provide some way for opportunities. At last, my emphasis is on using challenges as opportunities for growth and transformation in healing our minds & bodies.

*Mr. DP Mainali is one of the few Bhutanese pursuing higher professional academic studies. He is at a capacity to analyse situation in 3 perspectives – based on the story narrated by his parents, based on his own experiences as an youth grown and brought up in camp situation and as someone being able to pursue higher education in one of the competitive institutions in the Netherlands.