BRUSSELS - The Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV), a key ally of the centre-right coalition government, on Wednesday (8 February) opened up a website to collect complaints about people from Central and Eastern Europe residing in The Netherlands.
"Did you lose your job to a Pole, a Bulgarian, a Romanian, or any other Central or Eastern European? We would like to hear about it," it says on the website Hotline Central and Eastern Europeans.
The gradual arrival of cheaper labour from eastern Europe to more protect Western labour markets after EU enlargement in 2004 prompted high-profile scaremongering campaigns in several countries. This was epitomised by the so-called 'Polish plumber', perceived as taking jobs from native Western Europeans.
The PVV estimates that some 200,000 to 350,000 people from the region currently reside in the Netherlands.
The "massive arrival of Poles in particular", it says, "is the cause of many problems, such as nuisance, pollution, [and] a squeeze on the labour market."
The party, headed by Geert Wilders i, hopes to provide an outlet for complaints that otherwise remain unattended, it says. It will then present the results to the country's social affairs minister.
"It can go from 'They're sleeping on my doorstep' to 'They're still barbecuing at night'," Ino van den Besselaar i, Dutch MP and PVV social affairs spokesman, specified to public broadcaster NOS.
The Polish embassy in The Hague was fast to express its anger at the initiative, which it qualifies as "discriminatory".
"Such a hotline will foster a wrong image [of Polish people in The Netherlands]," Janusz Wolosz, spokesperson of the embassy, told NOS. "Those who do not have problems with their Polish neighbours will not go to the website."
He said the embassy is looking into the legality of the website, which he says might be in breach of the country's anti-discrimination laws.
For its part, Henk Kamp i, Dutch social affairs minister, refused to criticise the initiative, saying that it is up to political parties to do as they see fit.
He did, however, acknowledge the assumption that Eastern Europeans cause problems.
"Certainly, it is a well-known fact," he said. "In some districts of big cities, there are problems of overpopulation, shelter, or crime. But we also know that there are many people from those countries who behave well and work hard."
Citizens have been fast to mock the initiative, opening up parody websites.
The Hotline Limburgers aims to provide a safe haven for those who are annoyed by the presence people from the southern province, who talk funny and "have the right to free movement since 1866".
Dutch rapper Polska, who emigrated when he was three years old and was elected Pole of the Year 2011, set up the Hotline Valuable Cosiness.
"Since 1 January 2007," he says on his website, "the Dutch culture has been enriched by hard working lads who do their stinking best to make something of it."