The Netherlands | VIEWS & NOTES

The right to party: Inclusive nightlife for irregular migrants

Minke Hajer & Ilse van Liempt / March 2024

The Beats Beyond Borders: Uniting in Solidarity event was organized as part of the week against racism, the night before a large demonstration against racism and discrimination starting at Dam Square. When we entered Sexyland, a cultural hub for creative (night)life in Amsterdam, it was around 23.00. The dance floor was already full and the space filled with energy. Many men were dancing in a circle and showing their best moves. The audience was a mix of migrants and people who support migrants. Next to a DJ an MC was repeatedly saying in the microphone: “We got the right to paaaaaarty”. A slogan that made so much sense for the evening. When we think about rights for undocumented migrants, a ‘right to party’ generally is not top of mind. Yet, being able to go out in a relaxed and safe space where you can listen to music, dance the night away and meet other people is important in feeling part of the city. This right to party is not a given for many people living in irregular conditions. Undocumented migrants face many obstacles in participating in Amsterdam’s nightlife, they  are often refused at the door of nightclubs. Exclusion at the door occurs through entry requirements, members-only strategies and discrimination by door staff. The criminalisation of black music and the refusal of certain clubs to host black-music nights on the basis of racist stereotypes is another telling example. Not being able to show an ID is an additional difficulty. For example, the lack of ID can be a problem in combination with underage drinking laws, even when clubs explicitly want to be inclusive towards undocumented migrants. The Beats Beyond Borders event was organized to raise awareness around the lack of a right to party many people are facing in the city. It was organized by the Amsterdam City Rights initiative. Amsterdam City Rights  is founded in 2018 and is by and for undocumented people. It consists of representatives of organizations such as Here to Support, Migrante Netherlands, Indonesian Migrant Worker Union (IMWU), Pinay Sa Holland-Gabriela, FNV Migrant Domestic Workers, Migrant Right to Create. Amsterdam City Rights organize events in the city and inform people without residence permits about their rights and where to go in Amsterdam for advice and support. For example, during Covid-19 the City Rights App was launched which is a great way to make information available on where to find support. Many NGO workers, volunteers and other supporters of irregular migrants do not always know where to refer people for support. The app helps to overcome the lack of information and support people being more autonomous.  To advance the rights of undocumented inhabitants of Amsterdam, Beats Beyond Borders raised awareness around exclusion at night, by explicitly organizing an inclusive event centered around solidarity and the establishment of a community with a right to party. The entrance fee was raised from 3 to 12 euro, asking people who bought a ticket to support another person with a free ticket, including a free drink. Moreover, nightclubs across Amsterdam were asked to speak out in favour of an inclusive nightlife, and to put up the posters stating that nightlife is for everybody, including migrants, refugees and undocumented migrants in their clubs. This year the week against racism and discrimination coincides with Ramadan which was an obstacle for some undocumented migrants to attend. But at the evening it was promised that another event will follow soon. Having the opportunity to attend events in mainstream clubs is important to feel part of the city. Thanks to Sexyland  and Here to Support for making this happen. In solidarity for a more inclusive nightlife!

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