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Increased population mobility has confronted the Western welfare states with various flows of immigrants varying from labour migrants to destitute refugees. A special category of migrants is formed by the immigrants from former colonies settling in their former mother countries. Welfare states have tried to keep control over immigration by implementing an increasingly refined set of laws regulating entry, residence and work of foreigners. The Netherlands have been no exception to this general trend. Moreover, immigration was a sensitive political issue in the Netherlands because the country was generally considered to be densely populated. In this context, the post-colonial migration from Suriname became an important theme in Dutch politics in the 1970s. The number of immigrants from Suriname was in fact small, but had increased from 13,000 in 1966 to 51,000 in 1972. The Surinamese immigration was a special case because the migration laws did not apply to Dutch citizens, and the Surinamese had been Dutch citizens since 1954. In 1973 Joop den Uyl, the leader of the Dutch labour party, became prime minister, and curbing the flow of Surinamese immigrants through independence was one of his top priorities. However, the results of his policy measures were contradictory. They caused a panic in Suriname and led to an unprecedented flow of immigrants. In 1975 the number of Surinamese in the Netherlands had already increased to 110,000. Den Uyl’s policy proved to be based on a total misunderstanding of the nature and dynamics of this migration flow.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



post-colonial migration, migration control, the Netherlands, Suriname