Netherlands

Celebrating 10 years: The Hague’s International Centre has help 35,000 settle in

Photo: The Hague International Centre in 2017

A special centre in The Hague’s city hall where new arrivals to the Netherlands can complete the necessary paperwork and find out more about life in the region celebrates its 10th anniversary this week.

The Hague International Centre was relaunched with its current name on a cold and snowy November day in 2010, when the immigration service opened a help desk in its city hall offices, but in fact traces its origins back to 2002. In those days, it was known simply as ‘the international corner’.

In 2006, the concept was renamed the Xpat Desk and the then prime minister Jan-Pieter Balkenende officiated at the opening. The desk had a dedicated team of support staff and volunteer organisation Access came on board to help new arrivals find their feet.

Since then, so-called ‘expat centres’ have since been set up in most other big cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Leiden and Eindhoven, but The Hague’s operation claims to be among the first in Europe.

Inspired by the US

The idea for the expat desks was developed by Willem Post, who was inspired by welcome centres he had come across in the US. ‘At the time we described new arrivals as our special guests,’ Post, who advises the municipality of The Hague on international issues, told DutchNews.nl. ‘We were The Hague residents and we were trying to build a bridge with the foreign community. It was a gesture of hospitality.’

In those days, says Post, The Hague was not considered a plum posting and traditional expats looked forward to moving to cities like Geneva. ‘So we started helping people with a lot of very practical problems, dealing with the difficulty of getting a phone via KPN, for example,’ he says. ‘English was not as widely spoken then as it is now.’

Celebrating at the Xpat Desk in 2007. Photo: The Hague International Centre

Billy Allwood, founder of local website The Hague Online and organiser of the annual Feel at Home in The Hague Fair, remembers the horrors of sorting out his residency permit when he first arrived in the city for work – before the centre existed.

‘I had to be at the IND at 6am to get a number and then come back again at 8am for an appointment with my wife and small children,’ he says. ‘It is a lot easier for people coming here now.’

Registration

New arrivals to the city are now directed to the centre where they can formalise their immigration service and pick up the all important BSN number which is needed to open a bank account and rent a home.

In fact, since its opening, the city council-operated centre has helped 35,000 new arrivals find their way in the city and deal with the red tape necessary to get established.

But more than being a way of dealing with bureaucracy in one location, Allwood says The Hague International Centre has also been an important point of contact for dealing with the city. ‘Politicians change every four years but the city civil servants stay the same and they know what is going on.’

Expansion

Since its relaunch in 2010, neighbouring municipalities Delft, Leideschedam-Voorburg, Rijswijk and Wassenaar have started using the services of The Hague International Centre. And in 2019, the centre launched a commercial partnership programme with local companies that provide services for international workers, and started hosting events as well as helping employers with hiring international workers.

City alderman Marjolein de Jong performs the opening ceremony in 2010. Photo: The Hague International Centre

‘For us, as a community organisation, being part of an ‘expat centre’ has been beyond wonderful,’ says Access director Deborah Valentine.’Our volunteers can help new arrivals face-to-face, sharing their experience and our knowledge as well as learning from colleagues in local government. It has been truly unique for all involved.’

Today, although coronavirus has had an impact on the number of people moving to the city, the international community is still growing, city officials say.

The international workers, says Post, have made The Hague a more cosmopolitan place to live. ‘They bring in a lot of jobs as well,’ he says. ‘Yes, some expats are wealthy, but so many are just ordinary people who happen to live in a different country. I’m very proud of what we have achieved and I hope we can continue to offer a warm welcome.’

Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl

The DutchNews.nl team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments.

DutchNews.nl has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.

Football news:

Messi kan worden gediskwalificeerd voor 2 wedstrijden. De scheidsrechter gaf niet aan dat de Barca forward agressie toonde door de tegenstander op het hoofd te slaan.De aanvaller van Barcelona Lionel Messi kan voor meerdere wedstrijden geschorst worden nadat hij is uitgezonden in de Spaanse Super Cup wedstrijd tegen Athletic. De belangrijkste scheidsrechter van de wedstrijd, Jezus Gil Manzano, toonde de Argentijn een rode kaart in de 120e minuut voor het slaan van de achterkant van het hoofd van striker Asier Villalibre. Messi kreeg zijn eerste rode kaart in 753 wedstrijden in een Blaugrana shirt. De scheidsrechter verwijderde de Argentijn met de hulp van VAR. De maximale straf voor een voetballer bedraagt 4 diskwalificatiewedstrijden. Het is mogelijk als de mededingingscommissie de klap die Messi aan de tegenstander heeft toegebracht als een uiting van agressie beschouwt
Pirlo about 0:2 van Inter: de coach zou de eerste moeten zijn die de schuld op zich neemt. We waren te voorspelbaar. Juventus hoofdcoach Andrea Pirlo deelde zijn gedachten na de nederlaag naar Inter ... We verplaatsten de bal te langzaam. Het gaat nog meer om onze verdedigers, niet om onze middenvelders. We wilden situaties creëren waarin Chiesa of Ramsey tussen de linies kon zitten. Het gebeurde niet omdat we te langzaam en te diep gingen. In feite hebben wij nooit Inter-spelers uit hun posities gehaald. We waren te voorspelbaar. De coach moet altijd eerst de schuld op zich nemen. Als het team niet speelt zoals gepland, betekent het dat het het plan niet begreep. Toen we het eerste doel toegaven, waren we ongeorganiseerd, volgden hun runs niet en werden we gepakt. Sindsdien is de situatie ingewikkelder geworden zei Pirlo
Solskjaer about 0:0 met Liverpool: we verdienden het niet om te winnen. Wij wilden een resultaat bereiken, gezien hun blessures
Het veld is de veiligste plek die we hebben. Liverpool en Manchester United hebben de leadership showdown uitgesteld voor de tweede helft van het seizoen
Messi kan worden gediskwalificeerd voor 4 wedstrijden voor het slaan van een atletische speler op het hoofd
Ex-Juve en Bayern München verdediger Benatia verhuist naar Parma
Hodgson op 0:4 Met City: in de rust dacht ik niet dat Paleis zou verliezen Grote