The Netherlands: Border Police Can Ethnically Profile People

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Publish Date : 10/07/2021 1:48
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Recently, a Dutch court ruled that police can use ethnicity as one of the criteria for selecting people for checks at the border, a legal defeat that rights activists immediately vowed to appeal.

The Hague District Court ruled that ethnicity can be one of the criteria for singling out passengers, but not the only one. The checks are carried out at airports and on trains and buses from European Union destinations to prevent people illegally coming and staying in the Netherlands.

The decision came in a case brought against the government by two citizens, backed by human rights groups, who argued that they were singled out for checks by officers from the country's Marechaussee police force because of their skin colour.

Lawyers told the court that one of the plaintiffs, Mpanzu Bamenga, a city councillor from Eindhoven, who was born in Congo, was selected for a check as he returned to the Netherlands on a flight from Rome in part because he "didn't look Dutch". "Every time that I’m coming home to my country, the Netherlands, I’m being stopped because of my ethnicity," he continued. "We have a very big mission — a mission of equal rights, a mission of equal opportunities," he said.

Amnesty Netherlands’ Director, Dagmar Oudshoorn said: “Today’s ruling that the Dutch border police can continue to use ethnic profiling not only throws international human rights law out of the window, but also tramples Article 1 of the Dutch constitution. “By ruling that police can target people based on skin colour and race the court has allowed a practice that is in a clear violation of the prohibition against discrimination to continue. We will appeal this decision.”

The constitution’s first article says that discrimination based on “religion, belief, political opinion, race or gender, or on any other grounds whatsoever” is outlawed.
Dionne Abdoelhafiezkhan from Dutch NGO Controle Alt Delete said the ruling was “highly disappointing”. “The harmful practice of racial profiling will remain a day-to-day reality. Every time non-white Dutch citizens return home, they run the risk of being singled out because of the colour of their skin,” she said.

The case comes against a backdrop of a broader debate about race, inequality and discrimination in the Netherlands.
As the Black Lives Matter movement swept the world last year, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte conceded that racial inequality wasn’t only a problem in the United States. “There are also people living in the Netherlands who in that regard feel that they don’t fully fit in, that they can’t play a full role in this society,” he said. “That is also a Dutch problem. There is racism here, too. There is discrimination here, too.”


The Dutch pride themselves on being members of an open, tolerant, and fair society. But for a growing number of people in the Netherlands, this ideal is being put under pressure by proactive police actions. Too often, individuals from visible minorities feel that they are being singled out by the police not because of something they have done, but because of the way they look: singled out to be stopped, or checked, or searched. This is ethnic profiling.


The development of a discourse in which minority groups are increasingly seen and addressed as ‘dangerous others’, comparable to criminals, is part of a broader process of crimmigration - the merging of migration policy and crime control - in the Netherlands. This has put an increasing pressure on law enforcement officials to profile on the basis of race or nationality.




“ The Netherlands: Border Police Can Ethnically Profile People ”