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Antwerp

Antwerp reaches the demographic tipping point

Belgium’s most populous city Antwerp now has more immigrants living there than native inhabitants.

Published: February 28, 2019, 8:10 am

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    “That’s it — Antwerp now has more non-natives than natives,” a headline of French-language news weekly, L’Express announced. New figures show that 53,2 percent of residents in the city were not born in the country.

    The latest demographic report from City Monitor, as well as to data compiled by sociologist Jan Hertogen earlier this month, revealed that North African immigrants — who in Belgium hail mostly from Morocco — and migrants from West Asia, who are mostly Turkish, have surpassed local Antwerp residents in numbers. Hertogen welcomed the shift.

    Immigrants in the city have increased from 46 percent in 2014, L’Express reported, highlighting that the major demographic shift “obviously has consequences” for politics in Antwerp.

    The former Flemish city has been led since 2013 by Mayor Bart De Wever, who heads the centre-right New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) party, but his chances of being re-elected have become slim.

    Local media published data compiled by the University of Antwerp showing that voters with a migrant background overwhelmingly supporting left-wing parties. Only a quarter of the city’s young children today are Belgian natives,.

    According to the study, almost 90 percent of the city’s voters with Moroccan or Turkish origins voted at last October’s elections for left-wing parties, with 31 percent opting for the extreme left Workers’ Party of Belgium (PVDA).

    “The N-VA attracted only a remarkably low proportion of votes” from people in this demographic, said L’Express, adding that the changing electoral landscape “should not really surprise” anyone, because 10 percent of “old Belgians” who voted in 2012 have now been replaced by voters “of immigrant origin”.

    Hertogen pointed out that it was “only voters aged 40 to 50 and above who are voting for the right [N-VA] and far-right [populist Flemish Interest (VB)] in Antwerp,” claiming that this “illustrates painfully how De Wever appeals explicitly to remnants of the far-right, and the historic frustration of old Belgians”.

    He said: “De Wever is mayor of a city now already lost” because demographic change is making a future N-VA victory almost unthinkable. Already in 2015 — 72 percent of the city’s children aged six and younger were from a migrant background.

    “The future of a place in the decades to come can be read from the composition of children from 0 to 6 years and the evolution of this demographic in recent years,” Hertogen explained, adding that “Berber as a language [will be spoken] alongside Dutch Arabic, Moroccan Arabic and for some children ‘standard’ Arabic, alongside French, English, German, etc”.

    But even though Antwerp’s conservatives are facing huge problems due to the changing demographic, support for Belgium’s two largest Flemish anti-immigration parties exploded after the collapse of the Belgian government due to disagreements over the UN Migrantion Compact.

    When combined, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and Vlaams Belang now account for a massive 42 percent of the vote in Flanders according to a poll released by Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.

    Last year, Hertogen complained about “actual apartheid” in Belgium because non-EU nationals who had lived in the country for less than five years, were not allowed to vote in the elections. He told Flemish news magazine Knack that all foreigners living in Belgium should be automatically registered and required by law to vote, in order “to ensure democracy”.

    To get rid of conservatives, “the solution is obvious,” he said, as “the phantom of mass immigration is frequently raised in populists’ discourse”. Hertogen welcomed Islamic “diversity”.

    The huge increase in the Muslim population has resulted two thirds of Belgians sensing that their country was being “increasingly invaded”, according to a poll.

    Antwerp has now joined several other cities and communes in Europe where Muslims outnumber the local inhabitants. British capital London has been minority majority since the 2011 census, while Britain’s second city, Birmingham, is expected to be majority minority in 2021.

    In London, both mass migration and white flight resulted in the city hitting the demographic tipping-point faster than expected.

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