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How COVID-19 Has Impacted Expat Life

COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of billions of people all over the globe, and expats are no exception.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Expat Life

Young woman video-calling with friends. Dimitrov

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In one of the biggest annual surveys on expat life, Expat Insider, the global networking community InterNations asked both locals and expats about the impact of the pandemic.

A Shake-Up in Relocation Plans

Among all survey respondents, close to one in ten (9%) say they have moved or will move home earlier than originally intended due to COVID-19 — though 46% of them also plan to return to their life abroad within the year. A US American respondent shares: "I left the employer I was with, but I still hope to return overseas in some capacity."

One in six (17%) had to stop their plans to either move abroad in the first place or to relocate from one foreign country to another. However, 7% also say that they have now decided to move to another country due to the pandemic, while 12% of respondents are planning to extend their current stay abroad. The rest (55%) states that the pandemic has not had a direct impact on their relocation plans and/or current stay in a foreign country.

Moving Abroad Because of Corona

Among local survey participants, close to one in ten (9%) say they are now planning an international relocation due to COVID-19. In Russia, the share of local respondents who now want to move is particularly high at 20%. Expats, on the other hand, are less likely to plan a move to another foreign country because of the pandemic: only 6% give this answer. Notably, this group is overrepresented in a number of GCC States, though, such as Kuwait (19%), Saudi Arabia (12%), and Oman (11%), which are joined by South Africa (13%), Singapore (12%), and India (10%).

The Pandemic's Impact on Everyday Life

Of course, COVID-19 has not only disrupted relocation plans. When asked where they see the biggest impact of the pandemic on their personal life right now, survey respondents point out its effects on personal travel (25%), social life (23%), and on work and business (16%) in particular. Again, the difference between expats and local respondents is quite interesting. Both groups are quick to point out the impact on their social life (24% of expats, 21% of locals). "My social life was killed by COVID-19 at the worst moment: my arrival," a French expat in Budapest shares. However, while respondents living abroad are more likely to struggle with the pandemic's effect on personal travel (28% of expats vs. 18% of locals), one in five local respondents (20%) shares that the pandemic has especially impacted their work or business (vs. 15% of expats).

Find out more in the complete Expat Insider 2021 report.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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