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At the beginning of 2020, the idea arose for a study into the newcomers in Amsterdam and specifically how they have social contacts and a social life in their new city.


The figures on the number of newcomers in Amsterdam in 2019 were the immediate cause:

  • The number of new arrivals had broken a new record and now stood at almost 80,000 people, almost 10% of the total population. In 1 year!

That could not but have an enormous impact on the social life and character of the city, or so the idea was.

  • For the first time, there were more newcomers from abroad (nearly 50,000) than from domestic.

  • The majority of the newcomers seemed to have a high income, derived from the fact that the 2 largest groups of newcomers came from India and the USA and these people only get a work and residence permit if they earn more than 65-75,000 euros per year (the Blue Card scheme).


In the summer of 2020, a research team was formed under the name of Amsterdam Social Network Research, consisting of Quirina Geijsen, Hugo Post and Jaap Draaisma.

The research focused on the way in which newcomers in Amsterdam enter into social contacts and whether or not they build a social network.

How does that work, what are the obstacles, how can you encourage this?


2nd half 2020

  • A literature study (including into the social life of Iranians in Antwerp, British expats in Paris and British bankers in New York: see literature list) showed that nowadays foreign migrants hardly build up a social network in the city of arrival. They remain connected to their old social network (from TV to family) through traditional and social media.

  • In autumn 2020 the website: was launched.

  • A survey was also made " Questionnaire Social Research New Amsterdammer"
    This has already been completed on a trial basis by some recent foreign settlers.

  • An initial overview of organizations and institutions that offer shelter and support to recent settlers was made. Contact has been made with a number of them:

    • City Life ( ) participated in meetings with internationals; from visiting a karaoke bar to participating in a pub quiz (see report in this chapter)

    • The MixTree Language School ( ) was interviewed; this language school originated from a meeting place for young foreign settlers who wanted to learn english affordably and in a social way. (see interview in this chapter)


  • Discussions were held with a large number of experts about setting up this study; they are still involved in the investigation:

    OIS (Municipal Department of Research, Information and Statistics):
    Jeroen Slot, head of this department, who immediately welcomed the investigation enthusiastically and promised all support.
    Hester Booi, who specializes in migration, who always provided us with the most up-to-date information and figures. As a result, for example, we always kept a good eye on the effects of corona on the influx and outflow of residents.

    UvA (University of Amsterdam)
    Fenne Pinkster – Professor of Geography, Center of Urban Studies. About Feeling at home, social mixing, gentrification and inequality
    Justus Uitermark – Professor of Urban Geography, Social Networks, Power and Urban Development.
    Arnold Reijndorp – emeritus professor, researcher and publicist. Urban social life, urban dwellers, urban dynamics.

    Municipality of Amsterdam Spatial Planning and Sustainability
    Jurgen Hoogendoorn, also teacher at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) – Urban Management
    Max Smit – head researcher for the Environmental Vision 2040, including for the Feeling at Home part

    In the autumn of 2020, we submitted a subsidy application for the Feeling at Home spearhead from the Environmental Vision 2040 (Municipality of Amsterdam, made by the Spatial Planning and Sustainability Service) for further research into " Feeling at home among recent settlers ". Due to new budget rules as a result of the corona epidemic, it was decided to conduct this investigation internally and our request was therefore not granted.

    Independent Consultants
    Patrice Riemens
    Social geographer, worked for, among others, De Digitale Stad - De Waag.

    Wouter Pocornie
    Architect (Bureau 26H) and activist (including Black Archives).
    Bijlmer expert, initiator of Prospect Eleven and closely involved in the development of the Bijlmer and Amsterl III


1st half 2021


From social networks to sorting machine

As a result of comments by Hester Booi in particular, that most newcomers only stay in Amsterdam for a few years , the approach from social contacts shifted to the selection process, which means that newcomers can or cannot stay . Even though a part (how big?) of the newcomers will leave the city of their own free will after a few years, another part (how big?) will want to stay here but can't for various reasons.

How does that selection process work and has it not become a tough sorting process , whereby only those with a very high income can still remain in the city?


Amsterdam Sorting machine in Cities for Change program

We presented this concept of Amsterdam Sorteermachine to a large number of people. A tip from Jurgen Hoogendoorn brought us to the municipal initiative Fearless Cities - Cities for Change, led by Frans Bieckmann. In the context of setting up a special program in May 2021, he was looking for new bottom-up initiatives that could feed the social agenda of the municipality. We were able to receive a subsidy for making a documentary, which would then be shown in May as part of a kind of action festival.


The documentary Amsterdam from Emancipation Machine to Sorting Machine

The title for the documentary was “Amsterdam from Emancipation Machine to Sorting Machine”.

This refers to the booklet by ex-alderman Maarten van Poelgeest (together with Leo Platvoet) “Amsterdam Emancipation Machine” in which the choice for leaving the city was presented as a “free choice”. This departure is seen as a form of emancipation: you enter the city as a poor young person, work there, form a family and then leave for the suburbs for a house with a garden.

Or you stay in the city, develop further there and continue to contribute to the city.


A team (for script, recording, light, sound, locations, choice of interviewees, editing, etc.) was formed from a group of activists around the magazine Amstedam Alternative, which made the documentary in 6 weeks. In addition to Jaap Draaisma, the team consisted of Daniel Leix-Palumbo, Tommaso Campagna and Maria Plichta, all young foreign settlers who would like to stay in Amsterdam.


On May 19, 2021, the Documentary Amsterdam from Emancipation Machine to Sorting Machine had its premiere in Pakhuis de Zwijger.

Afterwards, a debate with Maarten van Poelgeest about the documentary took place.

Our proposition: the emancipation machine no longer works.

Because the vast majority of newcomers cannot stay in the city. Example: while none of the current B&W of Amsterdam was born in Amsterdam, all were newcomers who could stay and develop themselves here, this is no longer possible.

Maarten initially countered that you should see the city as a larger whole, with the peripheral municipalities – up to Almere and Purmerend – as part of the city. It is therefore not a problem if people cannot continue to live in Amsterdam, but they can in Almere.

In the end we agreed that this departure from Amsterdam and in particular the way in which the "sorting out" takes place, namely mainly on the basis of income/wealth, is bad for Amsterdam.



2nd half 2021


As of September 1, 2021, the research will be part of the AUAS Lectorate for Coordination of Urban Issues, led by Stan Majoor.


Diverse activities

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