Netherlands: Hirsch Ballin wants rid of term "allochtoon"

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin would prefer if the words "allochtoon" and "autochtoon" were no longer used. The Dutch terms are used to refer to "people of immigrant or ethnic background," essentially people "from elsewhere," and people of "native Dutch background", those "from here", respectively.

"Perhaps we should just get rid of the words, since they create a false opposition," he said on radio programme De Ochtenden on Monday.

"We must realise that we have a great deal in common, all of us here in the country. I don't like the classifications that split our country in two, for instance the opposition that is so often created between those of 'ethnic background' and 'native Dutch'," the CDA minister said.

He said there are enough problems that need to be addressed. "If we continue to talk as if our country is divided, or create other false oppositions, we only aggravate things."

In the past years, there have regularly been calls on the national and local level to get rid of the terms 'allochtoon' and 'autochtoon' because of the negative connotations.

In 2005 however the government at the time indicated it would continue to use the terms to make a distinction between someone from "foreign extraction" and someone who is "an original inhabitant of the Netherlands."

Hirsch Ballin openly distanced himself from the way in which Freedom Party PVV leader Geert Wilders regularly attributes problems to the Muslims in the Netherlands.

"That is wrong. I want nothing to do with that," the minister said. "We are a country of minorities. There is no point at all in dividing the country into groups that are opposed to each other."

The government belongs to all the Dutch and it mustn't allow groups to be isolated, Hirsch Ballin said.

Nor may they be held responsible for problems with individuals that sometimes can be explained by their education, unemployment or lack of connection with society.

"It doesn't benefit anyone to divide people into groups."

Source: Expatica (English)

See also: Flanders: New Flemish

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