Although the government has encouraged emigration to curb overpopulation, more people have migrated to the Netherlands than have left the country in recent years. Rapid economic growth in the 1960s drew many unskilled laborers from Mediterranean countries, and during the 1970s many people left Suriname for Holland when the former Dutch colony became independent. At first both groups settled mainly in the western region, but after 1970 the pattern of internal migration changed, as increasing numbers left the western provinces to settle in the east and south. The traditional pattern of migration from the countryside to the cities has likewise been altered, and since the 1970s the trend has been largely from the larger cities to small towns and villages.
In 1990, 57,344 persons left the Netherlands, of which 36,749 were Dutch nationals. Of these, 56% went to other European countries, 8% to the United States, and 11% to the Netherlands Antilles or Suriname. In the same year, 81,264 immigrants arrived in the Netherlands, representing an increase of 24% over 1989. Of the total, 17% came from Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles, while about 13% were Turks. Of the 692,000 aliens residing in the Netherlands in 1991 (4.6% of the population), 204,000 were Turkish nationals, 157,000 were Moroccan, 44,000 were Germans, and 39,000 were British.
The Netherlands has seen a steady increase in the number of asylum-seekers. At the beginning of 1996, there were 72,000 recognized refugees and 23,000 applications for asylum. By 1998, as many as 45,217 asylum applications were submitted. The main countries of origin were Iraq (8,300), Afghanistan (7,118), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (4,289), Bosnia and Herzegovina (3,769), and Somalia (2,775). In 1999, 4,060 people were evacuated from Macedonia to the Netherlands. The evacuees, as well as Kosovars who had already sought asylum in the Netherlands but whose cases were still pending or had already been rejected, were granted temporary protection. In 1999, the net migration rate was 1.99 migrants per 1,000 population.