Why Is Amsterdam Planning to House People in Shipping Containers?

Amsterdam’s liberal municipal government has created what appears to be a most illiberal plan for dealing with individuals with “antisocial behavior,” with those who have harassed and bullied immigrants, gays and others. Under a new £810,000 scheme proposed by mayor Eberhard van der Laan, they will be housed in converted shipping containers located around the city, in heavily policed areas.

But is the best way to fight intolerance by showing no tolerance towards the “enemies of tolerance?” the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel asks

In the Guardian, Bartho Boer, a spokesman for the mayor, emphasizes that the new “villages” are not for “the regular nuisance between two neighbors where one has the stereo too loud on Saturday night” but rather for those “people who are extremely violent and intimidating and in a clear situation where a victim is being repeatedly harassed.” Those who are “deemed guilty of causing ‘extreme havoc’ will be evicted and placed in temporary homes of a ‘basic’ nature,” including the shipping containers which will have showers and kitchens.

The reason for placing “antisocial tenants” in these homes is, according to Boer, to ensure that they are not “rewarded” by being placed in a “better accommodation” than they had previously been. After six months, tenants (who will have access to parole officers, doctors and social workers) will be relocated to permanent homes.

Boer outright denies the charge that the plan is illiberal, saying:

We want to defend the liberal values of Amsterdam. We want everyone to be who he and she is – whether they are gay and lesbian or stand up to violence and are then victims of harassment. We as a society want to defend them.

Boer and the rest of the Amsterdam government will certainly be kept busy defending the new housinh which has been dubbed “scum villages.” This unflattering term is a reminder that the plan — crafted by a liberal government of “Social Democrats, market liberals and Left-Greens” — very  much resembles one proposed by right-wing populist Geert Wilders, who has called for “repeat offenders” be “sent to a village for scum.”

As the Guardian points out, in the 19th century, the Dutch government moved “troublemakers” to separate villages which ended up becoming slums, according to Dutch newspaper Parool. By housing “antisocial” individuals in container housing around the city, van der Laan’s administration is seeking to avoid creating such “villages.” But as Der Tagesspiegel underscores, it is also the case that a very tolerant society, by separating aggressive individuals, can be said to be creating new and “advanced forms” of repression.

The Amsterdam mayor’s plans for the “scum villages” indeed raise larger questions about the treatment of “antisocial” individuals. Should the push be to integrate them into society, through education and social programming? Doesn’t a temporary segregation smack of something more distasteful and disturbing, the literal, physical relocation of individuals who are undesirable — who cannot be tolerated?


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Photo from Thinkstock


Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago

just a bit depressing, people shouldn't have to live in such small spaces..but I guess it's better than nothing

Lisa D.
Lisa D4 years ago

Klaus i think you are making a great fuss for no reason... and WW2 was not exactly a direct product of WW1 i should not have to tell you that since after all you are German.

It is true that illegal immigation causes a lot of problems for the countries where the immigrants are travelling to, but one must not forget that these are also human beings same as you or me and they deserve a fair chance.
After all the only difference between you going to australia and the illegal immigrants travelling to germany is a piece of paper.

And this article is not about immigrants.

Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters5 years ago

This is not a new way to address assylum seaker demands of comfortable accommendation. Europe is getting flooded by them. So are other countries like Australia.
These are not refugees, they come to take over and want free accommendation and welfare payments to further their course. As a German I left my country and migrated to Australia, simply there is no room for Germans in our own country. Leave it to Eastern Europeans, Muslims, Africans or whoever wants to kick Germans out of their own counrtry. Everything gets dumped in Germany, nuclear waste from France, excess assylum seaker quotas of neighbouring countries are all dumped in Germany.WW2 was a product of WW1. WW3 will be a product of ???????????????

Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago


Inari T.
Inari T5 years ago

Interesting. Shipping containers can be converted into quite acceptable housing; but I'm not too sure about the idea of taking people with uncivil ideas and coralling them into precincts of intolerance. Though, having said that, the article does say that the measure is temporary, and that social workers, health care professionals, etc. will be available to assist the people who are housed there.

Adio Ferdiansyah
Adio Ferdiansyah5 years ago

thank you for wonderful

Joan Mcallister
5 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Rosesemary Dua
Rosesemary Dua5 years ago

In Philippines we used to convert the shipping container into a beautiful lodging house,you guys can check it out and see what I'm talking about.It doesn't mean that if you live in a container it seems you were like in dog house,that's too absurd.

Harshiita Sharma
Harshita Sharma5 years ago


Karl Murphy
Karl Murphy5 years ago

I think the first place I ever heard of this type of housing was here at care2 because of their low environmental impact and the use of material that would otherwise be thrown away (old shipping containers)..... and now there is an article attacking them?