Immigration down after coronavirus outbreak

Immigration more than halved in the weeks following the implementation of national measures to combat COVID-19. Fewer immigrants, from outside the EU in particular, registered with a Dutch municipality. On the other hand, more people with a native Dutch background returned to the Netherlands. This is evident from provisional figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

At the beginning of week 12 on 16 March, the European Union closed its external borders to persons from outside Europe. The Netherlands then closed its borders on 19 March. In the same week, various other countries also decided to only allow people with a valid reason for immigration. Furthermore, international air traffic came to a near standstill, posing further restrictions on travel to and from the Netherlands.

Immigrants by migration background, weekly averages
HerkomstJaarweeks 3-11 (x 1,000)weeks 13-16 (x 1,000)
EU (incl. UK)2019*2.21.9
EU (incl. UK)2020*2.31.0
* provisional figures

Fewer immigrants from outside the EU in particular

In the weeks following the implementation of the COVID-19 measures (weeks 13 to 16 inclusive), there was less immigration into the Netherlands than in previous weeks. On average, 2.2 thousand persons registered per week. Prior to the coronavirus measures (weeks 3 to 11 inclusive), this number still stood at 5.2 thousand on average. A smaller decline was recorded over the same period in 2019, with immigration falling from 5.1 to 4.3 thousand persons per week.

The sharpest drop in immigration since measures were implemented has been recorded among non-EU nationals, namely from 2.5 thousand per week to slightly over 700. The decline in the number of intra-EU immigrants was less sharp, although even this group more than halved. On average, 1 thousand EU citizens registered on a weekly basis, down from 2.3 thousand prior to the COVID-19 measures, representing a decline of 57 percent. In 2019, the difference between the same two periods of the year was smaller, with a decline in immigration amounting to slightly over 15 percent.

People with a native Dutch background were more likely to settle in the Netherlands over the first few weeks after the introduction of travel restrictions; on a weekly basis, more than 100 native Dutch persons registered on average. There was hardly any difference in the number of native Dutch immigrants between both periods in 2019.

Hardly any Syrian refugees registered

Among the three largest origin groups, immigration from Syria declined most rapidly. Syrians form the largest group of refugees. On average, slightly over 10 migrants with a Syrian background arrived in the Netherlands per week. The weekly average of Syrian immigration stood at 120 prior to the introduction of the COVID-19 measures. Likewise, immigration came to a virtual halt among the second largest group of refugees, the Eritreans. The decline was less pronounced in other large refugee groups including Iranians, Iraqi and Afghans.

Asylum procedures were temporarily suspended on account of the coronavirus measures. It also became more difficult for asylum seekers and their dependents to travel to the Netherlands as many Dutch embassies suspended consular services on account of COVID-19.

Immigration by 3 largest migrant groups, weekly averages
HerkomstJaarweeks 3-11weeks 13-16
* provisional figures

Furthermore, a substantial decline was seen in immigration of Indian nationals, who form the second largest group of migrants. These are mainly knowledge workers and their family members. The number of Indian immigrants dropped from over 220 to over 40 per week on average.

The largest group of immigrants are Polish nationals. Polish immigration stood at nearly 600 per week on average in the pre- corona period; this was halved following implementation of the said measures. Similar declines were recorded for persons from other EU countries in Ccentral and Eeastern Europe, such as Bulgaria and Romania.

Emigration also declined

Not only immigration, but emigration as well declined, albeit less rapidly. The average number of emigrants per week stood at 1.5 thousand during the period of weeks 13 to 16 inclusive; this was 2.8 thousand per week in the period of weeks 3 to 11 inclusive. In the same period in 2019, emigration fell from 2.9 to 2.7 thousand. The definitive emigration figures over 2020 will show a smaller decline than initially estimated; this is because data are presently still not available on those persons who have already emigrated but have not (yet) registered as such. More data are lacking over the most recent period compared to the preceding weeks.

Emigration1)by migration background, weekly averages
HerkomstJaarweeks 3-11 (x 1,000)weeks 13-16 (x 1,000)
EU (incl. UK)2019*1.31.2
EU (incl. UK)2020*1.40.9
* provisional figures 1) including administrative corrections

Relatively the sharpest decline was seen in the number of emigrants with a native Dutch background, from an average 375 to 120 per week. Emigration was stable between the same two periods in 2019. Emigration fell among persons with a non-EU background in particular, with nearly 600 fewer emigrants per week.

Drop in foreign migration means lower net migration

Due to the developments described above, population growth due to foreign migration has slowed down since the coronavirus measures were implemented. From week 13 onwards, there were almost 700 more immigrants than emigrants per week on average, versus 2.3 thousand on average previously. Intra-EU migration declined by 90 percent to almost 65 per week on average; extra-EU migration by 80 percent to almost 260 per week on average.

As a result, over half of net migration comprised people with a native Dutch background. Last year, native Dutch immigration and emigration was fairly balanced over weeks 13 to 16 inclusive. This year, almost 370 more people settled here on balance in the same period.

Net migration 1) by migration background, weekly averages
HerkomstJaarweeks 3-11 (x 1,000)weeks 13-16 (x 1,000)
EU (incl. UK)2019*0.90.6
EU (incl. UK)2020*0.90.1
* provisional figures 1) including administrative corrections

Migration flows 

The figures presented in this news release are based on data obtained from the Personal Records Database (BRP) up to 27 April 2020. People residing in the Netherlands for at least four months are required to register as official residents. Those who reside abroad for at least eight out of twelve consecutive months are required to deregister as residents. Asylum seekers who have obtained a residence permit can register with a Dutch municipality within six months. In general, some time elapses between the actual date of departure or arrival and the moment when this data reaches CBS.

Analogous to CBS publications on mortality, weeks 1 and 2 are not included in the figures. This news release does not cover week 12 (16 through 22 March), due to the transition taking place in that week with the introduction of the coronavirus measures. Consequently, this week could neither be identified as a ‘pre-corona week’ nor as a ‘mid-corona week’.