Turks in the Netherlands Redirected from Turkish-Dutch

Turks in the Netherlands
Total population
Estimates vary because official Dutch statistics do not collect data on ethnicity.

At least 500,000[1] to 2,000,000, including descendants[2][3][4]
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly Sunni Islam
Minority Alevism, other religions (e.g. Christianity), or irreligious

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 form the second largest ethnic group in the country after the ethnic Dutch. The majority of Dutch Turks descend from the Republic of Turkey; however there has also been significant Turkish migration waves from other post-Ottoman countries including ethnic Turkish communities which have come to the Netherlands from the Balkans (e.g. from Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Romania),[5] the island of Cyprus,[5] and more recently during the European migrant crisis from Syria, Iraq and Kosovo. In addition, there has been migration to the Netherlands from the Turkish diaspora; many Turkish-Belgians and Turkish-Germans have arrived in the country as Belgian and German citizens.[5]


A Turkish Foundation in Amsterdam

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] On 19 August 1964, the Dutch government entered into a 'recruitment agreement' with Turkey.[9] Thereafter, the number of Turkish workers in the Netherlands increased rapidly.[10]

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.[8] 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.
Ethnic Turks from Iraq (i.e. Iraqi Turks) protesting in the Dutch capital city of Amsterdam.

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.[11]

The Turkish population is mostly concentrated in large cities in the west of the country;[12] some 36% of Turks live in the Randstad region.[13] 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.[11]


There have been various Turkish migration waves to the Netherlands from all modern nation-states which were once part of the Ottoman Empire and which still consist of ethnic Turkish communities. The majority of Dutch-Turks have immigrated from (or descend from) the Republic of Turkey. However, there are also significant ethnic Turkish communities which have come to the Netherlands from the Balkans (especially from Bulgaria, Greece, and North Macedonia),[5] Cyprus,[5] the Levant (especially from Iraq), and North Africa. Due to the European migrant crisis a substantial number of ethnic Turks have also arrived from Syria and Kosovo. Moreover, many Turkish-Belgians and Turkish-Germans in the disapora have also come to the Netherlands as Belgian and German citizens.[5]

Official data published by Statistics Netherlands only collects data on the country of birth and does not provide data on ethnicity. Consequently, the 410,000 people recorded from Turkey (first and second-generation only) in 2019[14] is not a true reflection of the total ethnic Turkish population. Firstly, the significant number of ethnic Turkish communities which have arrived in the Netherlands from the Balkans, Cyprus, the Levant, North Africa, and the diaspora (e.g Belgium and Germany)[5] are recorded according to their citizenship, such as "Belgian", "Bulgarian", "Cypriot", "German", "Greek", "Iraqi", "Lebanese" "Macedonian", "Syrian" etc. rather than by their Turkish ethnicity. Although these ethnic Turkish communities have different nationalities, they share the same ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious origins as mainland ethnic Turks.[15] Secondly, Statistic Netherlands does not provide any data on Dutch-born citizens of ethnic Turkish origin who are from the third, fourth or fifth generations.[5]

Population estimates

The estimates on the Turkish-Dutch community have varied. Suzanne Aalberse et al. have said that, despite the official Dutch statistics, "over the years" the Turkish community "must have numbered half a million".[1] As early as 2003, the political scientist and international relations expert Dr Nathalie Tocci said that there was already "two million Turks in Holland".[3] Rita van Veen also reported in Trouw that there was 2 million Turks in the Netherlands in 2007.[2] More recently, in 2020, a report published in L1mburg Centraal estimated that there are more than 2 million Dutch-Turks.[4] Voetbal International also reported in 2020 that the Dutch football club Fortuna Sittard will be carrying out annual scouting activities to find "Turkish talent" among the approximately 2 million Turkish-Dutch community.[16]

By 2009 The Sophia Echo reported that Bulgarian Turks were now the fastest-growing group of immigrants in the Netherlands. At the time, they numbered between 10,000 and 30,000.[17] The majority, of about 80% have come from the south-eastern Bulgarian district of Kardzhali (Kırcaali).[18] Similarly, the Western Thrace Turks have increased significantly, especially in the Randstad region. After Germany, the Netherlands is the most popular destination for Turkish immigrants from Western Thrace.[19]


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%).[20] However, when corrected for socio-economic position, Dutch people of Turkish descent are not more often suspected of crime than native Dutch people, according to numbers from 2012[21] and reports from 2014.[22]


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.[23]

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.[23] In 2015, the Turkish second generation percentage had increased to 27%.[24]



The first generation of Turkish immigrants is predominantly Turkish-speaking and has only limited Dutch competence.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27] The young bilinguals, therefore, speak normal Turkish with their elders, and a kind of Dutch-Turkish with each other.[28]


The Turkish Mevlana Mosque in Rotterdam was voted the most attractive building in 2006.
The Ayasofya Camii, popularly known at the Westermoskee, is located in Amsterdam.

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.[29] 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.[30] The Turkish community accounted for almost forty percent of the Muslim population; thus are the largest ethnic group in the Netherlands adhering to Islam.[31]

Turks are considered to be the most organised ethnic group with its activities and organisations.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34] 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.[34]

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.[34] 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.[34] 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.[34]

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'.[35]


Turkish Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands

Dutch Turks generally support left-wing political parties (DENK, PvdA, D66, GroenLinks, and SP) over the right-wing ones (CDA, VVD and SGP).[36] 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.[37] 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.[38] 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,[39] 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.[40] 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.[34] 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.[34]


A number of Turkish-Dutch writers have come to prominence.[41] 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"[42] Human Rights Watch criticized the Netherlands for new legislations violating the human rights of Turkish ethnic minority group.[43] 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"[44] 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.[45] 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.[46] 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".

Associations and Organisations

  • Hollanda Türk Federasyon ("Turkish Federation of the Netherlands")
  • Hollanda Batı Trakya Türk Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği ("Western Thrace Turkish Culture and Solidarity Association of the Netherlands")
  • Hollanda Balkan Türkleri Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği ("Balkan Turks Culture and Solidarity Association of the Netherlands")
  • Hollanda Bulgaristan Türkleri Derneği ("Bulgarian Turks Association of the Netherlands")
  • Hollanda Irak Türkmen Diasporası Derneği ("Iraqi Turkmen Disapora Association of the Netherlands")
  • Irak Türkleri Gök Hilal Vakfı ("Iraqi Turkish Sky Crescent Foundation")

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b Aalberse, Suzanne; Backus, Ad; Muysken, Pieter (2019), Heritage Languages: A language Contact Approach, John Benjamins Publishing Company, p. 90, ISBN 978-9027261762, the Dutch Turkish community... out of a population that over the years must have numbered half a million.
  2. ^ a b van Veen, Rita (2007), ’De koningin heeft oog voor andere culturen’, Trouw, retrieved 25 December 2020, Erol kan niet voor alle twee miljoen Turken in Nederland spreken, maar hij denkt dat Beatrix wel goed ligt bij veel van zijn landgenoten.
  3. ^ a b Tocci, Nathalie (2003), EU Accession Dynamics and Conflict Resolution: The Case of Cyprus 1988-2002 (PDF), London School of Economics, p. 232, The Dutch government was concerned about Turkey’s reaction to the European Council’s conclusions on Cyprus, keeping in mind the presence of two million Turks in Holland and the strong business links with Turkey.
  4. ^ a b L1mburg Centraal: Fortuna gaat samenwerking aan met Turkse Beşiktaş, L1mburg Centraal, 2020, retrieved 26 December 2020, in de regio rondom Limburg, waar dik twee miljoen Turken binnen een...
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Sag, Armand (2016), "De destinteresse in Nederland", Platform Dergisi (December 2016): 59, Officieel zijn ze met bijna 500.000 mensen aanwezig in Nederland, meer omdat Turken uit Bulgarije..., Griekenland..., Cyprus..., Macedonie... en bijvoorbeeld Turken die geen Turkse ntionaliteit meer habben of Turken uit Belgie en Duitsland die zich nu gevestigd hebben in Nederland. Hiermee zouden er bijna driekwart miljon tot een miljoen Turken in Nederland wonen.
  6. ^ Panayi 1999, 140.
  7. ^ Ogan 2001, 23-24.
  8. ^ a b Vermeulen & Penninx 2000, 154.
  9. ^ Akgündüz 2008, 61.
  10. ^ Baumann & Sunier 1995, 37.
  11. ^ a b Yücesoy 2008, 26.
  12. ^ Vermeulen & Penninx 2000, 158.
  13. ^ Haug, Compton & Courbage 2002, 277.
  14. ^ Non-Western population of the Netherlands in 2019, by background, Statistics Netherlands, 2019, retrieved 25 December 2020
  15. ^ Gülçiçek 2006, 8.
  16. ^ Trots Fortuna Sittard gaat talenten scouten voor Besiktas, Voetbal International, 2020, retrieved 27 December 2020
  17. ^ TheSophiaEcho. "Turkish Bulgarians fastest-growing group of immigrants in the Netherlands". Retrieved 2009-07-26.
  18. ^ Guentcheva, Kabakchieva & Kolarski 2003, 44.
  19. ^ Şentürk 2008, 427.
  20. ^ "Annual Report on Integration 2016" (PDF) (in Dutch). The Hague: Statistics Netherlands. 2016. p. 15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Jaarrapport integratie 2012" (in Dutch). Statistics Netherlands. 2012. p. 190.
  22. ^ "Hoeveel criminaliteit is er onder Marokkanen?" (in Dutch). RTL Nieuws. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  23. ^ a b "Jaarrapport Integratie 2005 - SCP Summary". www.scp.nl (in Dutch). pp. 2–4. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ Strömqvist & Verhoeven 2004, 437.
  26. ^ Strömqvist & Verhoeven 2004, 438.
  27. ^ Extra & Verhoeven 1993, 223.
  28. ^ Extra & Verhoeven 1993, 224.
  29. ^ Kennedy & Roudometof 2002, 60.
  30. ^ CBS 2007, 51.
  31. ^ CBS StatLine. "More than 850 thousand Muslims in the Netherlands (2007)". Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  32. ^ Nielsen 2004, 64.
  33. ^ Nielsen 2004, 65.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ Ulzen 2007, 214-215.
  36. ^ Messina 2007, 205-206.
  37. ^ Farrell, Vladychenko & Oliveri 2006, 195.
  38. ^ Ireland 2004, 146.
  39. ^ Turkish referendum 2017", Wikipedia, 7 April 2017. Retrieved on 10th of April 2017.
  40. ^ ", External news, 12 March 2017. Retrieved on 10th of April 2017.
  41. ^ Graeme Dunphy, "Migrant, Emigrant, Immigrant: Recent Developments in Turkish-Dutch Literature", Neophilologus, 85 (2001) 1-23.
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ Human Rights Watch. (2009). Human Rights Watch world report 2009: Events of 2008. Human Rights Watch.
  44. ^ ECRI. (2008). Third report on the Netherlands. Strasbourg, FRANCE : The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. Archived 2009-02-14 at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ Dinsbach, W., Walz, G., & Boog, I. (2009). ENAR shadow report 2008: Racism in the Netherlands. Brussels, Netherlands: ENAR Netherlands.
  46. ^ 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


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External links

Media related to Turks in the Netherlands at Wikimedia Commons

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