Photo exhibition ’50 years of labour migration in the Netherlands

Image from the photo exhibition ’50 years of migration in the Netherlands’ at Utrecht Central Station. © Atlas Cultural Centre


The photo exhibition ’50 Years of Labour Migration in the Netherlands’ will be opened by Mayor Sharon Dijksma in Utrecht on Friday 24 June 2022.


In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a great shortage of labour in the Netherlands. After first attracting guest workers from countries such as Italy, Spain, Turkey, Morocco and Greece, a flow of workers from Yugoslavia started in the late 1960s.  In the sixties, they went to work at the Philips factory, Ford factory, Fokker factory, Melkunie, Thomassen & Drijver shipbuilding company and textile factories in Utrecht. However, without them, the Dutch economy would never have become as strong as it is today. 


“He who does not honour the past, loses the future; he who destroys his roots cannot grow.” – HUNDERTWASSER- 


This year, we proudly celebrate Utrecht’s 900th anniversary. The theme is ‘City without walls’: open, involved, hospitable and connected with each other. For this reason, Atlas Cultural Centre wants to pay attention to the history of labour migrants in Utrecht, which is part of Utrecht900, with a tight programme. We want to do this by expanding the photo exhibition ´50 Years of Labour Migration in the Netherlands´ with local stories and history, and combining this with an educational package, lectures and dialogue meetings, literary evenings, culinary evenings, workshops, film nights, research, recording stories of local guest workers, making short films and a recruitment campaign for new archive material. In short, in cooperation with the Utrecht Archive, the library, the Network of Organisations of Older Migrants (NOOM), project group ’50 years of guest workers in the city of Utrecht’, Utrecht University, the Al-Amal Foundation, the Turkish Business Association (TOV), and many national partners, we will keep the city developing in the coming months and connect different groups.


According to initiator Sahin Yildirim, the first generation has contributed ‘enormously’ to the Netherlands, both financially and socially. “We are now talking about third and fourth generations in the Netherlands. These are people who were born and raised here, people who do voluntary work or are members of a political party. They participate fully in society and are represented in every sector. But no attention is paid to the first generation, while they were the pioneers. Most of these ‘guest workers’ are retired and/or have health problems. With this project, we want to record our collective history in the Netherlands and pass it on to new generations.”


You can view the programme and register here