The squat movement in Amsterdam is all but dead, squat historian Eric Duivenvoorden told NRC Handelsblad last week. As a result of the squatting ban, in effect as of 1 October 2010, people are afraid to participate in squats. This does not mean that there are no squats left, the paper reports:
There are still an estimated 300 squats in Amsterdam. Every six months the municipality evicts a few, but new ones are added too. The municipality does not yet know the exact total number of squats. “We’re still counting the buildings”, a spokesperson of Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said. Neither can the municipality say anything about the effectiveness of the squatting ban. The Amsterdam triangle (municipality, police and justice department) are doing an evaluation of a year and a half of squatting ban.
When asked, a police spokesperson says the police have long stopped speaking of 300 squats. “We currently don’t make any statements regarding the exact number, because Mayor Van der Laan will at some point publish an up-to-date figure in order to provide insight into the results of the policy in place since 1 October 2010.”
It is interesting to track the origin of the number of 300 squats. In January 2010, various media quoted this number after the publication of the report Squatting in Amsterdam in 2009 of the Vrije Universiteit. The authors had not made an estimate themselves, but quoted the website krakengaatdoor.nl. In that site’s FAQ, the question How many squatters are there anyway? was answered:
That is unknown. Although many squatters are in the municipal register, squats are not registered as a separate category. Neither do the police keep a record of squatted buildings. Also, many squatters prefer to keep a low profile. For Amsterdam, estimates vary from 200 to 300 squats and 1,500 to 2,000 squatters.
In 2008, NRC Handelsblad had quoted the aforementioned Duivenvoorden saying that there were about 65 squats in Amsterdam. The lack of firm data provides the mayor with some latitude. If he wants to emphasize that the squatting ban has had little effect, he can say that there were already few squats before the introduction of the ban. Alternatively, if he wants to present himself as tough, he can say that there were still hundreds of squats in 2010.