Turks in the Netherlands

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Turks in the Netherlands
Total population

a This figure only includes people whose origins are from Turkey. 197,107 people had a first generation background and 195,816 had a second generation background. The CBS has not provided any figures for further generations.[1]

Turks in the Netherlands (occasionally and colloquially Dutch Turks or Turkish-Dutch; Dutch: Turkse Nederlander; Turkish: Hollanda Türkleri) are the ethnic Turks living in the Netherlands. They make up 2.5% of the population.[8]


A Turkish Foundation in Amsterdam
Number of Turkish-Dutch
according to Statistics Netherlands[1][9]
Year Population Year Population
1996 271,514 2008 372,714
1997 279,708 2009 378,330
1998 289,777 2010 383,957
1999 299,662 2011 388,967
2000 308,890 2012 392,923
2001 319,600 2013 395,302
2002 330,709 2014 396,414
2003 341,400 2015 396,555
2004 351,648 2016 397,471
2005 358,846 2017 400,367
2006 364,333 2018 404,459
2007 368,600 2019 409,877

During the 1950s, successive Dutch governments strongly stimulated emigration from the Netherlands, while at the same time the economy grew rapidly. The Netherlands began to face a labour shortage by the mid-1950s already, which became more serious during the early 1960s, as the country experienced even higher economic growth rates, comparable to the rest of Europe.[10] At the same time, Turkey had a problem of unemployment, low GNP levels and a high population growth. So the import of labour solved problems on both ends.[11] The first Turkish immigrants arrived in the Netherlands in the beginning of the 1960s at a time when the Dutch economy was wrestling with a shortage of workers.[12] On 19 August 1964, the Dutch government entered into a 'recruitment agreement' with Turkey.[13] Thereafter, the number of Turkish workers in the Netherlands increased rapidly.[14]

There were two distinct periods of recruitment. During the first period, which lasted until 1966, a large number of Turks came to the Netherlands through unofficial channels, either being recruited by employers or immigrating spontaneously. A small economic recession began in 1966. Some of the labour migrants were forced to return to Turkey. In 1968, the economy picked up again and a new recruitment period, which was to last until 1974, commenced. In May 1968, new European Economic Community rules forced the Netherlands to instate a travel visa system to regulate labour immigration and from then on, the state recruited foreign workers. The peak of Turkish labour migration occurred during these years. The Turks eventually surpassed other migrant nationalities in numbers and came to represent the Dutch image of guest workers.[12] Due to the 1973 oil crisis, the Den Uyl cabinet ended labour immigration in 1974. Because from then on re-entry into the Netherlands was impossible, Turkish remigration strongly decreased. A system of family reunification had been arranged in the 1960s and gradually Turkish workers after 1974 brought over their wife and children. The latter predominantly married partners from Turkey. In the early twenty-first century the Second Balkenende cabinet imposed much stricter conditions on unification, to a large extent ending Turkish "marriage immigration". This coincided with a drop in birth rates, leading to a gradual levelling off in the growth of people of Turkish descent. Since 2003, there have often been years with an emigration surplus.


Turkish flag and Dutch flag hanging side by side in the multi-ethnic neighborhood Kruidenbuurt, Eindhoven.

Turkish immigrants first began to settle in big cities in the Netherlands such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht as well as the regions of Twente and Limburg, where there was a growing demand for industrial labour. However, not only the capital cities but also medium-sized cities, and even small villages attracted the Turks.[15]

The Turkish population is mostly concentrated in large cities in the west of the country;[16] some 36% of Turks live in the Randstad region.[17] The second most common settlements are in the south, in the Limburg region, in Eindhoven and Tilburg, and in the east: in Deventer, as well as in Enschede and Almelo in the Twente region.[15]

According to Statistics Netherlands, as of 2009, the total population of the Netherlands is 16,485,787.[18] The Turkish population is 378,330, thus 2.29% of the total population. This consisted of some 196,000 first-generation Turks[19] and 183,000 second-generation Turks whose parents originated from Turkey.[20] The number of third-generation Turks is not recorded in Statistics Netherlands. The total number of third generation descendants of all "non-western" immigrants was estimated at about 120,000 in 2016.[21]

Population centers[edit]

Significant population centers (2016)
City Population city ratio
Rotterdam 42,900 7.8%
Amsterdam 42,500 5.3%
The Hague 38,300 7.5%
Utrecht 13,700 4.2%
Zaanstad 11,500 7.7%
Eindhoven 10,500 4.8%
Enschede 9,200 5.8%
Arnhem 8,500 5.5%
Tilburg 8,000 3.8%
Deventer 6,900 7%
Almelo 6,000 8.3%
Hengelo 4,800 5.9%
Oldenzaal 1,300 4%
Spijkenisse 1,000 1.4%

[citation needed]

Other Turkish communities[edit]

The official estimates of the Turkish immigrant population in the Netherlands do not include Turkish minorities whose origins go back to the Ottoman Empire. In the Netherlands, there are also Bulgarian Turks and Western Thracian Turks. These populations, which have different nationalities, share the same ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious origins as Turkish nationals.

Bulgarian Turks[edit]

10,000-30,000 people from Bulgaria live in the Netherlands. The majority, of about 80%, are ethnic Turks from Bulgaria; most of them have come from the south-eastern Bulgarian district of Kardzhali (Kırcaali)[22] and were the fastest-growing group of immigrants in the Netherlands in 2009.[23]

Western Thrace Turks[edit]

A minority of Western Thrace Turks can be found in the Netherlands, especially in the Randstad region. They are registered as Greeks due to their Greek nationality. After Germany, the Netherlands is the most popular destination for Turkish immigrants from Western Thrace.[24]


In 2015, individuals with a Turkish background were about 2.5 times as likely to be suspected of a crime compared to the overall native Dutch population, with of the first generation 1.7% being suspected, and of the second generation 3.6% (total males 4.28% and women 0.67%).[25] When taking their socio-economic position into account, Turkish Dutch are not more suspected of crime compared to native Dutch.[26] Compared to native Dutch with a similar average income, Turkish-Dutch are just as often or less often suspected of crime.[27]


According to the Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau annual report of 2005, most of the original first-generation Turkish migrants of the 1960s and 1970s had a very low level of education with many of them having had little or no schooling at all. In addition to these, many of the Turkish "marriage migrants" who arrived in the Netherlands by marrying an immigrant already living in the country as well as the 'in-between-generation' which arrived while aged 6-18 have a low education. An outcome of this circumstance is a poor command of the Dutch language.[28]

All Turkish children of the second generation have attended primary and secondary education. However, their educational levels were on average lower. While almost half of the native Dutch population (and Iranian origin pupils) had ever attended higher secondary education (HAVO) or pre-university education (VWO), only a fifth of the Turkish second generation had.[28] In 2015, the Turkish second generation percentage had increased to 27%.[29]



The first generation of Turkish immigrants is predominantly Turkish-speaking and has only limited Dutch competence.[30] Thus, for immigrant children, their early language input is Turkish, but the Dutch language quickly enters their lives via playmates and day-care centres. By age six, these children are often bilinguals.[31]

Adolescents have developed a code-switching mode which is reserved for in-group use. With older members of the Turkish community and with strangers, Turkish is used, and if Dutch speakers enter the scene, a switch to Dutch is made.[32] The young bilinguals, therefore, speak normal Turkish with their elders, and a kind of Dutch-Turkish with each other.[33]


The Turkish Mevlana Mosque in Rotterdam was voted the most attractive building in 2006.

When family reunification resulted in the establishment of Turkish communities, the preservation of Turkish culture became a more serious matter. Most Turks consider Islam to be the centre of their culture.[34] Thus, the majority of Dutch Turks adheres to Sunni Islam, although there is also a considerable Alevi fragment. According to the latest figures issued by Statistics Netherlands, approximately five percent of the Dutch population (850,000 persons), were followers of Islam in 2006. Furthermore, eighty-seven percent of Turks were followers of Islam.[35] The Turkish community accounted for almost forty percent of the Muslim population; thus are the largest ethnic group in the Netherlands adhering to Islam.[36]

Turks are considered to be the most organised ethnic group with its activities and organisations.[37] The Turkish Islamic Cultural Federation (TICF) which was founded in 1979, had seventy-eight member associations by the early 1980s, and continued to grow to reach 140 by the end of the 1990s. It works closely with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which provides the TICF with the imams which it employs in its member mosques.[38]

The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) established a branch in the Netherlands in 1982 with the intent to oppose the influence of leftist asylum seekers from Turkey as well as rightist members of Islamist movements such as Millî Görüş. In 1983, the Netherlands agreed to allowing Turkey to send its own imams to the Turkish guest worker communities.[39] Critics of this agreement argue that these imams, some of whom do not speak Dutch, hinder the effective integration of Dutch-Turkish Muslims into the society of the Netherlands by promoting allegiance to the Turkish state while neglecting to promote loyalty to the Dutch state.[39]

Of the 475 mosques in the Netherlands in 2018, a plurality (146) are controlled by the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). Diyanet implements the political ideology of the Islamist Turkish AKP party.[39] Diyanet mosques, have stayed out of initiatives to train imams in the Netherlands which were designed to train Islamic preachers who were familiar with the European context and to promote Dutch values and norms.[39] This resistance is based on that it would be more difficult to import Diyanet imams, who are employees of the Turkish state, from Turkey if they cooperated in Dutch imam training programs. Diyanet imams receive benefits and political tasks which are comparable to those of Turkish diplomats.[39]

In April 2006, the Turkish Mevlana Mosque had been voted the most attractive building in Rotterdam in a public survey organised by the City Information Centre. It had beaten the Erasmus Bridge due to the mosques 'symbol of warmth and hospitality'.[40]


Dutch Turks generally support left-wing political parties (DENK, PvdA, D66, GroenLinks, and SP) over the right-wing ones (CDA, VVD and SGP).[41] In the past, migrants were not as eager to vote. However, they are now aware that they can become a decisive factor in the Dutch political system. Far-right groups have taunted the Dutch Labour Party, the PvdA, for becoming the Party of the Allochthonous because of the votes they receive from migrants and the increase in the number of elected ethnic Turkish candidates.[42] Turkish votes determine about two seats of the 150 representatives in the Second Chamber of the Staten-Generaal. During the Dutch general election (2002), there were fourteen candidates of Turkish origin spread out over six party lists which encouraged fifty-five percent of Turks to vote, which was a much higher turnout than any other ethnic minorities.[43] On the 11th of March 2017 the Dutch government made a decision which changed the relationship between both countries for the worse. When the Turks decided to send their minister of foreign affairs for the 400.000 Turks living in the Netherlands, to encourage them to vote for the Turkish constitutional referendum,[44] the Dutch government denied access into the Netherlands. Later that day minister of family affairs Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya traveled by road to the Netherlands but was escorted out of the country on orders of the Dutch government. This led to problems in Rotterdam where Dutch police used dogs and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.[45] The Netherlands is not alone in this decision, Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland all have denied the Turkish government to rally in their countries for the referendum.

The Diyanet has facilitated a fusion of religion and politics (Islamism) in the Netherlands and allowed the party DENK to spread propaganda in mosques under its control located in the Netherlands.[39] When Turkish migrant organizations were requested to join a statement against domestic violence, the religious attaché of the Turkish Embassy declared that domestic violence does not exist in Turkish society and all Turkish Islamic organizations withdrew their support from the statement.[39]


A number of Turkish-Dutch writers have come to prominence.[46] Halil Gür was one of the earliest, writing short stories about Turkish immigrants. Sadik Yemni is well known for his Turkish-Dutch detective stories. Sevtap Baycili is a more intellectual novelist, who is not limited to migrant themes.


Even though progressive policies are installed, "especially compared with those in some other European countries such as Germany"[47] Human Rights Watch criticized the Netherlands for new legislations violating the human rights of Turkish ethnic minority group.[48] The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published its third report on Netherlands in 2008. In this report, Turkish minority group is described as a notable community which have been particularly affected by "stigmatisation of and discrimination against members of minority groups"[49] as a result of controversial policies of the governments of Netherlands. The same report also noted that "the tone of Dutch political and public debate around integration and other issues relevant to ethnic minorities has experienced a dramatic deterioration".

Recently, use of the word "allochtonen" as a "catch-all expression" for "the other" emerged as a new development. European Network against Racism, an international organisation supported by European Commission reported that, in Netherlands, half of the Turks reported having experienced racial discrimination.[50] Same report points "dramatic growth of islamophobia" parallel with antisemitism. Another international organisation European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia highlighted negative trend in Netherlands, regarding attitudes towards minorities, compared to average EU results.[51] The analysis also noted that compared to most other Europeans, in the Netherlands, majority group is "more in favour of cultural assimilation of minorities" rather than "cultural enrichment by minority groups".

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c CBS StatLine. "Bevolking; generatie, geslacht, leeftijd en herkomstgroepering, 1 januari". Retrieved 2013-12-19.
  2. ^ Netherlands Info Services. "Dutch Queen Tells Turkey "First Steps Taken" On EU Membership Road". Archived from the original on 2009-01-13. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
  3. ^ Dutch News. "Dutch Turks swindled, AFM to investigate". Retrieved 2008-12-16.
  4. ^ Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi 2008, 11.
  5. ^ Sarah, Fenwick (2 May 2010). "Airline Plans Direct Flights to North". Cyprus News Report. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  6. ^ Sabah. "Hollanda Avrupa'nın en streslisi". Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  7. ^ Religious identification of the Turkish-Dutch community in the Netherlands in 2015 Survey
  8. ^ "The World Factbook".
  9. ^ CBS StatLine. "Population; generation, sex, age and origin, 1 January". Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  10. ^ Panayi 1999, 140.
  11. ^ Ogan 2001, 23-24.
  12. ^ a b Vermeulen & Penninx 2000, 154.
  13. ^ Akgündüz 2008, 61.
  14. ^ Baumann & Sunier 1995, 37.
  15. ^ a b Yücesoy 2008, 26.
  16. ^ Vermeulen & Penninx 2000, 158.
  17. ^ Haug, Compton & Courbage 2002, 277.
  18. ^ CBS StatLine. "Population; sex, age, marital status, origin and generation, 1 January 2009". Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  19. ^ Statistics Netherlands 2009, 205.
  20. ^ Statistics Netherlands 2009, 206.
  21. ^ https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/nieuws/2016/47/wie-zijn-de-derde-generatie-
  22. ^ Guentcheva, Kabakchieva & Kolarski 2003, 44.
  23. ^ TheSophiaEcho. "Turkish Bulgarians fastest-growing group of immigrants in the Netherlands". Retrieved 2009-07-26.
  24. ^ Şentürk 2008, 427.
  25. ^ Annual Report on Integration 2016 (PDF). The Hague: Statistics Netherlands. 2016. p. 15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2018.
  26. ^ Jaarrapport integratie 2012, p.20 CBS, 2012
  27. ^ Hoeveel criminaliteit is er onder Marokkanen? RTL Nieuws, 1 April 2014
  28. ^ a b "Jaarrapport Integratie 2005 - SCP Summary". www.scp.nl (in Dutch). p. 2-4. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  29. ^ Willem Huijnk & Iris Andriessen, 2016, Integratie in zicht? De integratie van migranten in Nederland op acht terreinen nader bekeken, Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau, Den Haag, p. 64
  30. ^ Strömqvist & Verhoeven 2004, 437.
  31. ^ Strömqvist & Verhoeven 2004, 438.
  32. ^ Extra & Verhoeven 1993, 223.
  33. ^ Extra & Verhoeven 1993, 224.
  34. ^ Kennedy & Roudometof 2002, 60.
  35. ^ CBS 2007, 51.
  36. ^ CBS StatLine. "More than 850 thousand Muslims in the Netherlands (2007)". Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  37. ^ Nielsen 2004, 64.
  38. ^ Nielsen 2004, 65.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g Öztürk, Ahmet Erdi; Sözeri, Semiha. "Diyanet as a Turkish Foreign Policy Tool: Evidence from the Netherlands and Bulgaria". Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association: 3, 12–13, 15. Archived from the original on 19 September 2018.
  40. ^ Ulzen 2007, 214-215.
  41. ^ Messina 2007, 205-206.
  42. ^ Farrell, Vladychenko & Oliveri 2006, 195.
  43. ^ Ireland 2004, 146.
  44. ^ Turkish referendum 2017", Wikipedia, 7 April 2017. Retrieved on 10th of April 2017.
  45. ^ ", External news, 12 March 2017. Retrieved on 10th of April 2017.
  46. ^ Graeme Dunphy, "Migrant, Emigrant, Immigrant: Recent Developments in Turkish-Dutch Literature", Neophilologus, 85 (2001) 1-23.
  47. ^ Mendes, H. F. (1994). Managing the multicultural society: The policy making process. Paper presented at the Conference on Today's Youth and Xenophobia: Breaking the Cycle. Wassenaar, Netherlands: Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study.
  48. ^ Human Rights Watch. (2009). Human Rights Watch world report 2009: Events of 2008. Human Rights Watch.
  49. ^ ECRI. (2008). Third report on the Netherlands. Strasbourg, FRANCE : The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. Archived 2009-02-14 at the Wayback Machine
  50. ^ Dinsbach, W., Walz, G., & Boog, I. (2009). ENAR shadow report 2008: Racism in the Netherlands. Brussels, Netherlands: ENAR Netherlands.
  51. ^ Thalhammer, E., Zucha , V., Enzenhofer, E., Salfinger , B., & Ogris, G. (2001). Attitudes towards minority groups in the European Union: A special analysis of the Eurobarometer 2000 survey on behalf of the European Monitoring Centre on racism and xenophobia. Vienna, Austria: EUMC Sora. Archived 2007-11-10 at the Wayback Machine


External links[edit]

Media related to Turks in the Netherlands at Wikimedia Commons