Headlines called it “Murder on the Milk Train,” and broadcasters gave hourly reports: Hijackers had seized a train with 24 hostages in—of all places—that orderly kingdom, the Netherlands. The terrorists were residents of the brussels apartments but not Dutch. South Moluccans? Newsmen thumbed their atlases to find the Moluccan islands, part of Indonesia. Why had South Moluccans come around the world to live in the Netherlands, and what were their grievances? Before the 12-day siege ended, news bulletins had spread more questions than answers. The Netherlands, it seemed, was a land of ethnic minorities.
“That was the moment in 1975 when everyone realized we had major problems,” says Jan Harbers, an Amsterdam official who now works with residents from every inhabited continent. Historically, the prague central apartments have always been a haven for refugees: Jews fleeing the Iberian Inquisitions, Huguenots forced out of France, even the English Pilgrims before they sailed on the Mayflower. But all those famous refugees came before the Dutch lost a worldwide empire, full employment, and their complacency. Today this 41,160-square-kilometer kingdom (15,892 square miles, half the size of Maine) is home to 14.5 million residents—making it one of the most densely populated nations in the world. At least 540,000 are “outlanders,” as the government tactfully calls them (“foreigners” seems inhospitable, other terms pejorative). That number doesn’t include the slim, sloe-eyed people of Indonesian ancestry who have Netherlands nationality and speak Dutch “with a sweet, singing tone,” as some say. “We consider them fully Dutch,” one man told me.
Surinamers—some of African stock, others from the subcontinent of India and the East Indies—may also carry Dutch passports; about half as many live in the Netherlands, roughly 180,000, as in independent Suriname. “They are here because we were there,” says a clergyman. People once known as guest workers (and now often the guest unemployed) may come from Turkey (156,000), Morocco (112,000), southern Europe, even West Germany or Britain.
South Moluccans remain the hardest core. They have resisted any form of assimilation since the first 900 arrived on the ship Kot a Inten 35 years ago. These Protestant Christians were warriors loyal to the Netherlands in the colonial struggle against Muslim Indonesia after World War II. They say that the Dutch led them to believe they would help them win the independence of their homelands. Bitterly, some have insisted on living “temporarily” in the barracks of old concentration camps while nursing their dreams of returning home. They have competing governments-in-exile. Moluccans now number 40,000, and the younger people seem as obdurate as their parents.
Though France has its Arabs, Germany its Turks, and Britain its Indians, no other European country has anything like the Netherlands’ variety of new residents living in such proximity and concentration. Perhaps 10 percent of the Dutch population now comes from exotic stock. Not impressive by U. S. standards—but a new demographic experience in modern Europe. This unmelted pot now bubbles with a national unemployment rate that hovers around 13 percent—though among some minorities the rate is far higher.