Poles Apart in These Online Wars

in: Inter Press Service English, English (15 februari 2012)

Many people are appalled by the anti-Polish website established recently by the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). The site encourages complaints against migrant workers from Central and Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland. The Poles are hitting back with their own hotlines, and humour.

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UTRECHT, The Netherlands, Feb 15, 2012 (IPS)

The European Commission and ambassadors from ten eastern European states have expressed concern. They say the website runs counter to European principles of freedom and free movement.

The anti-immigrant PVV of Geert Wilders set up the online hotline because of what it considers problems caused by the "massive influx" of "mainly Polish" migrant workers. People are asked to complain about nuisance or about losing their jobs to Poles or other Eastern Europeans.

"Complaints are often not filed because of the idea that nothing would be done with them anyway," the site says. According to the PVV, they have already received above 41,000 complaints.

The Polish community in the Netherlands reacted quickly, with the launch of a website called ‘Pro-Poles’. The site supported by the employers' organisation VNO-NCW invites people to share positive experiences with Polish workers, and explains the benefits of free movement of labour between the Netherlands and Eastern Europe.

Hotlines against discrimination have received about 2,000 complaints against the PVV hotline. The Dutch- Polish rapper Mr. Polska set up the hotline ‘Valuable Company’ to share stories about Eastern Europeans who are good company.

"Have you had an extremely wild night out with some Poles? Do you employ hard working Eastern Europeans you are very happy with? Send your stories to this hotline." The look and the language of the site takes a similar form to the original.

New hotlines are springing up like mushrooms online. There is one against Belgians that complains that nuisance such as bags of French fries on the streets is caused by the free movement of labour between Belgium and Holland. "It seems that Belgian beer is made darker, consciously," it says, and "Belgian fries appear to contain fat."

The launch of this website was followed by a hotline for complaints against people from Limburg (in the south of the country), because some of them drink too much and others it says have become politicians, resulting from the free movement of labour between the Netherlands and Limburg since 1866. Geert Wilders, the leader of the PVV, comes from Limburg.

The hotline was closed because some people took it seriously. But complaints can now be sent to a new hotline for complaints against citizens from the north, middle, east, south and west of the country.

Despite the humour there is reason for real concern. "Poles are increasingly in the population’s bad books," says Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska, editor-in-chief of Polonia.nl, the website of the Polish community in the Netherlands who set up ‘Pro-Poles’. "There are more and more instances of discrimination and insults. The anti-migrant virus has spread throughout large sections of the Dutch population."

Locally, there are real problems related to Eastern European immigrants, Bos-Karczewska acknowledges. "If the house next to me would be packed with Polish employees who make noise and do not know how to behave, I would not be happy either. But it's the Dutch who haven't tackled those problems for five years.

"They've left the temporary employment agency sector self-unregulated after liberalisation. There are 10,000 agencies in the Netherlands now, the majority of which are illegal. When it goes wrong, the migrants are blamed. But for the Dutch rational arguments don't count any more, they have been overcome by uncertainty and fear for migrants."

From left to right, all political parties have distanced themselves from the PVV campaign. Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who needs PVV support for his Liberal-Christian Democratic minority coalition, says it's not for him to comment on positions taken by individual political parties.

The PVV has a history of hotlines. They opened a hotline for complaints against a traffic tax and a hotline against "street terror". Last month a list of complaints about a traffic plan in The Hague appeared to have been filled partly with complaints by people working for the party.

In the meantime, the Dutch seem to be turning their custom of complaining into something positive. The number of hotlines has exploded, on Facebook and elsewhere on the web. There is a new hotline against Central and Eastern European DJs, and a hotline against native Dutchmen ("there are 12 to 14 million of them"). Now there is a hotline against PVV hotlines. (END)

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