Warm welcome awaits refugees in Groningen, but not from everyone

Groningen generously welcomed refugees yesterday but there are no clear solutions how the migrant problem might be dealt with in the future. “Vluchtelingen Welkom” (Refugees Welcome) took place on September 14 at Grote Markt and the square was half full of demonstrators – from young students to old people holding posters with slogans such as “Hort nodig” (Heart needed).

People were there to show that “we care about refugees and we want to give them a warm welcome to our province,” said in an interview Stieneke van der Graaf, a member of the provincial government.

Among the supporters of the event was the popular musician Chris Garrit, also known as The Night Mayor of Groningen. In an interview before the event he called for other people to join the event because there is a big problem with war and religion nowadays. He wants people to understand that there is no difference between us and the people from Syria: “I don’t believe in borders, we are all humans, we all eat bread.”

The University of Groningen also supported the initiative. In fact, the Board of the University was one of the signatories to the event. “This is just a general humanitarian welcome action,” said in an interview Jan de Jeu, the Vice President Board of the University of Groningen. He elaborated that this was not a political act and that it was relevant for all people to think how to handle this topical refugee issue.

When it comes to the possible consequences of accepting refugees in the country, he said: “We don’t have ready-made solutions.” The University continues considering ways of handling the issue of student refugees together with the Ministry of Education. “We are still discussing solutions not only for RUG but for all Dutch universities.”

“I don’t believe in borders, we are all humans, we all eat bread,” Chris Garrit, Groningen’s Night Mayor, said as a supporter of Vluchtelingen Welkom. Photo: SP Groningen.

Peter van Oudsten, the mayor of Groningen, spoke at the event and stated that on behalf of the whole province “in a very short term the solutions for the refugee issue will be announced.”

However, not everyone held the same opinion about the event. In a phone interview with a PVV Groningen member who did not want his name to be cited, it turned out that the party holds a different view on this issue. “Giving shoes, singing songs, and saying slogans such as ‘No Boundaries’ is quite hypocritical,” he stated. “It is very easy to talk that the world belongs to everyone when you live in wealth and in some of the most expensive houses and neighbourhoods in Groningen, as many of the political elite do.”

Moreover, PVV Groningen believes that by accepting this unchecked stream of people the Dutch sacrifice their country.

When asked about Geert Wilders’ statement that the wave of refugees pushing into Europe is “Islamic Invasion”, he said: “Our party is also compassionate but you cannot fix the world problems at the expense of your own country. We should strive for world peace – we should handle the problems at their source. We are just realistic,” he concluded.

Featured image: FocusGroningen

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