The PVV’s stunning election victory impacts the international community at Avans. A large part of the community is worried about their future in the Netherlands and fears hateful comments, explains Avans lecturer Fernando Rojas Franco. “This was already palpable one day after the results came in.”
Mr Rojas Franco accepted the outcome of the elections, as he believes in democracy. And he doesn’t think it’s the PVV as a party that is the cause of concern among members of the international community at Avans. After all, it has been known for many years what Geert Wilders stands for and what his viewpoints are. “It’s the fact that his party got a vast majority of the votes and that many people feel the same way as Mr Wilders does. That is scary; the results now seem like ‘permission’ to talk the way Mr Wilders does and to openly discriminate based on someone’s background and religion”, continues the Avans lecturer, who emphasises that he is not just speaking for himself, but on behalf of a large group within the university of applied sciences.
The Avans international community consists of approximately 2,500 students. This number does however include Dutch students currently enrolled in an international study programme.
No freedom of religion
The first horrified messages from the international community quickly started pouring in after the exit poll on the evening of the elections, says Mr Rojas Franco. One of them was a message from an international Avans lecturer who ‘joked’ that he would have to change his name to Jan de Jong. The next day, the results were the main topic of discussion during the lectures. “Students from a Muslim background felt especially scared and uncertain. They fear attacks on mosques, that they will be sent back to their country of origin, that there will no longer be freedom of religion in the Netherlands, and that study programmes for international students will have to be cancelled. They told me they are worried that they will no longer be welcome here.”
Maria Driessen felt that way too. The second-year student of International Business in ‘s-Hertogenbosch grew up in Canada and has Dutch roots, which explains her surname. She was initially unaware that elections were being held, but when her fellow students told her about the PVV’s victory the next day and what the party stands for, she was advised to read up on the matter. “This really unnerved me, especially the fact that they intend to only provide Bachelor’s degree programmes in Dutch and would like to see fewer international students. This would affect me”, she says. At first she and her fellow students would joke about deportation, but it was not really that funny to her.
The fact that it is unlikely that all of the PVV’s plans will be put in motion, is not really Mr Rojas Franco’s greatest concern. Because Geert Wilders had already stated that there would be no deportation. “The problem is that Mr Wilders has always said he would, and that people have voted for him en masse. Those people agree with him. And even those who did not necessarily agree with his extreme points of view still voted for him.”
Maria is also not afraid of being deported. She has faith in the Dutch political system, in which a majority is needed to approve proposals. There is also a constitution. But she is seriously worried about finding housing as an international student. “That is already hard enough. What happens now, with a governing party that opposes international students and internationalisation and that blames foreigners for the housing shortage?”, she says. “I am also worried about returning after doing an internship abroad. Will I be allowed back into the country, and would I be welcome? People might look down on me.”
The international student says she is lucky to an extent. With her white skin colour and blonde hair, she is not immediately the subject of hateful remarks. “But that is different for my fellow students who wear headscarves, for example. I am worried for them.”
Mr Rojas Franco: “I am afraid there will be even more polarisation in this country, and that immigrants and refugees will be told to go back to their home country. This is already happening, but the election results will make it worse.”
A message on behalf of the Avans International Community after the election results
The Avans employee would like to see Avans issue a statement and says that this should have already happened. The message does not need to be political per se, but should be a clear and sincere message in which Avans emphasises that there is a place for everyone at the institution and that inclusivity is held in high regard. Mr Rojas Franco thinks previous election results cannot compare to what is going on now. “Because these results are different. The country has changed. Wilders is an extremist and he never pretended to be anything else. He has always openly expressed his points of view. It is just like when Trump was elected president in the US”, says Mr Rojas Franco. The lecturer says the Avans statement should be issued in both Dutch and English. He also hopes that Dutch people will give support to the people shocked by these election results.
Avans released a statement in the light of the election results.