Historic European City Antwerp Now Majority-Minority

Antwerp Pixabay PNG
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VIRGINIA HALE

Antwerp will soon be “lost” to the hope of any future conservative government, local media said as data showed only a quarter of the city’s young children are Belgian natives, and studies revealed migrant background voters overwhelmingly supporting left-wing parties.

“That’s it — Antwerp now has more non-natives than natives,” claimed a headline in French-language news weekly, L’Express, over new figures which revealed that 53.2 per cent of residents in the city — Belgium’s most populous — are now of immigrant origin.

According to the latest demographic report from City Monitor, as well as to data compiled by sociologist Jan Hertogen earlier this month, North African immigrants — who in Belgium hail mostly from Morocco — and migrants from West Asia, who are mostly Turkish, comprise the biggest proportion of Antwerp residents with a foreign background.

With the proportion of non-Belgians in the city having grown from 46 per cent in 2014, L’Express notes that the major demographic shift “obviously has consequences” for politics in Antwerp, which has been led since 2013 by Mayor Bart De Wever, who heads the conservative New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) party.

To illustrate this, the magazine pointed to a University of Antwerp study which found that almost 90 per cent of the city’s voters with Moroccan or Turkish origins voted at last October’s elections for left-wing parties, with 31 per cent opting for the extreme left Workers’ Party of Belgium (PVDA).

Meanwhile “the N-VA attracted only a remarkably low proportion of votes” from people in this demographic, said L’Express, commenting that numbers showing the fast-changing electoral landscape “should not really surprise”, when 10 per cent of what it called “old Belgians” who voted in 2012 had been replaced by voters “of immigrant origin” by the time of last year’s polls.

“It is 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,” said Hertogen, asserting that the figures “illustrate painfully how De Wever appeals explicitly to remnants of  the far-right, and the historic frustration of old Belgians”.

“De Wever is mayor of a city now already lost” to conservative politics, with demographic change making a future N-VA victory almost unthinkable, he remarked, pointing to figures which showed that — already in 2015 — 72 per cent of the city’s children aged six and under had 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 said, 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.”

Last year, the sociologist complained there was “actual apartheid” in Belgium because non-EU nationals who have lived in the country for less than five years, were not permitted to vote in elections.

“The solution is obvious,” wrote Hertogen in an op-ed for Flemish news magazine Knack, in which he argued that all foreigners resident in Belgium should be automatically registered and required by law to vote, in order “to ensure democracy” at a time when “the phantom of mass immigration is frequently raised in populists’ discourse”.

“This decision would require political courage, and looks ahead to what will, necessarily, be an increasingly diverse society,” he admitted, but stressed it was “precisely now” that the country must introduce compulsory voting for foreigners “so that the groups who are being attacked can defend themselves politically”.

With the demographic change, Antwerp joins a small handful of other cities where minority groups outnumber the national majority. British capital London has been minority majority at least since the time of the 2011 census, where a combination of mass migration and white flight saw the city hit the tipping-point faster than expected.

Britain’s second city, Birmingham, is expected to be majority minority as well by the time of the 2021 census, with almost a quarter of the city already born abroad and white pupils accounting for less than a third of school children.

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