Large group of young undocumented migrants fail to enter labor market

Companies in various sectors are eager for talent because of the tight labour market, but meanwhile, many young people are completely sidelined because they do not have the right papers. Several thousand undocumented workers are therefore denied access to higher education and the job market.

Now 19-year-old Deborah has been on the run all her life since she arrived in our country at 15. She was born in Nigeria, where her parents decide to flee to South Africa for political reasons. From there, the family ends up in the Netherlands.

“I have no status and no residence permit. My parents applied for asylum at the time, but it was rejected. I attended compulsory education until I was eighteen, but because I do not have the right papers, I cannot work or continue my studies. A very annoying situation. We are completely stuck, whereas by now I am rooted here.”

According to Tara Fiorito, associate professor of sociology at VU University Amsterdam, it is difficult to estimate how many undocumented young people there are in the Netherlands. “In total, between 23,000 and 58,000 migrants do not have the right papers. It is estimated that several thousand young people are involved.”

Fiorito emphasizes that this group runs up against a number of institutional rules. “And that causes suffering. We need to harness the social talent of these young people, instead of throwing it away. These are ambitious people, they are eager to get started. There needs to be a solution as soon as possible. Especially now that we are facing tightness in the labour market.”

Campaign for access to education and the labour market

The DreamersNL campaign is asking Dutch employers, educational institutions and the general public to support a manifesto that calls on politicians for concrete change: access to education and the labour market for these young people.

Several employers, including MVO Nederland, Bouwend Nederland, Facilicom, MKB Rotterdam Rijnmond, FNV Horeca and educational institutions such as Hogeschool Rotterdam and Summa Eindhoven have already signed the manifesto. Also in other European countries the so-called “Dreamers” have already organized themselves and improved their conditions.

“The Netherlands, therefore, cannot be left behind,” says director Jos Verhoeven of Start Foundation, an independent fund dedicated to lowering labour market barriers for vulnerable groups in the Netherlands. He came across a distressing situation himself and since then Verhoeven has been trying to raise awareness of the issue. “It is, of course, ridiculous that there is speculation about the arrival of labour migrants, while we have a very large group of people who can get work, speak the language and live here.”

‘Things are starting to pick up steam’

Verhoeven said several employers have come forward, including some large companies, to increase pressure on politicians. “It’s starting to gain good steam now,” he said.

University professor of sociology Fiorito hopes politics will finally move. “The problem is very easy to solve. Give these young people access to higher education and the labor market. That way they can be part of society and make their contribution. We now have to deal with restrictive measures, while the tightness in the labor market is only increasing.”

The Ministry of Justice and Security reveals that rules have been agreed on the basis of which people can qualify for a residence permit. “Those who are not allowed to stay here based on those rules must leave. So this also means that it is not possible to continue working or studying here. For those affected, this is a difficult message,” said a spokesperson.

The ministry further emphasizes that individual circumstances are always considered and taken into account in residence applications. “After rejection, there is the possibility to object or appeal the decision. As a rule, the outcome of an appeal against a rejection may be awaited in the Netherlands. Should the court’s ruling show that there is no right to stay in the Netherlands, the end of the process comes into view, and that means return to the country of origin.”

By: Ertan Basekin | Image: ANP
This article previously appeared on (June 10, 2022).