Proposed Dutch racist law

by Chris Bertram on April 22, 2006

Alex Voorhoeve (LSE) writes to tell me of a proposed law in the Netherlands which would establish a special legal status for young Dutch citizens of Caribbean descent, allowing them to be deported from the Netherlands back to their territory of origin for minor crimes. The people in question are Dutch citizens of as good a legal title as anyone else, but this appears to single them out on the basis of ethnic or racial criteria for treatment that would not be meted out to others. The details are in “this pdf”: , by a judge on the Caribbean Court of Justice (and formerly a judge in The Netherlands).

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The Alpha Mind » Blog Archive » Bizarre discriminatory law proposed in Netherlands
04.22.06 at 4:05 am



T. Scrivener 04.22.06 at 2:43 am

The EU wouldn’t allow something like that would they?


frumiousb 04.22.06 at 4:18 am

You know, I’ve been an expat in the Netherlands for almost 10 years now, and I’ve never disrespected a politician the way that I do Verdonk. (She’s responsible for this law.) She panders to the lowest kind of racism and fear that you find in this country.

This proposed law has been around for quite a while, by the way. They started talking about it in 2005.


des von bladet 04.22.06 at 4:52 am

Aren’t the criteria actually _geographical_? I won’t argue (who could?) that this isn’t being used as a proxy for ethnicity, but if it only applies to first generation immigrants – and I’m sure the ECHR would block any attempt to add geneaological extensions, even if it acquieses to this.

Anyway, I’m still betting on NL to turn the corner on this sort of stuff before smelly old Danmark. (Full disclosure: I’m going to be an immigrant in the Netherlands inside two months, so I have a slightly vested interest.)


Bob B 04.22.06 at 5:26 am

I am unclear as to the official rationale for making this provision specific to those of Caribbean ethnic origins in the Netherlands rather than other ethnicities.

In Britain, for whatever reasons, it seems that ethnic Caribbeans are significantly over-represented in the prison population compared with other ethnicities and we have this from the Metropolitan Police Authority:

“Cindy Butts, MPA deputy chair and lead member on gun crime, said:

“‘Gun crime blights all our communities, particularly the African and African-Caribbean communities. Whilst much is going on to fight gun crime, communities continue to suffer firearms related crime and the devastating impact it has on their lives.'”

Also, from the BBC website, we have this on attainment by ethnicity in the GCSE school exams for 16 year-olds:

“Percentage within ethnic groups getting 5+ A*-C including English and maths in 2004:
62.9% Chinese
54.1% Indian
41.5% Asian
40.9% White
32.1% Bangladeshi
30.8% Pakistani
26.4% Black
22.8% Black Caribbean

“Only one in every six black Caribbean boys meets the government’s new league table benchmark for secondary schools.

“Ministers have underlined their commitment to focusing on the basics with a new expectation that all pupils should have good GCSEs in English and maths.

“Black pupils gained the most improved results of any ethnic group in last year’s GCSEs, according to figures released by the government.

“The proportion of black Caribbean and African pupils achieving good GCSE results rose to 45% from 39%.

“Achievement has risen in most ethnic groups, with the results of Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi pupils also up.

“The highest achievers at GCSE level are Chinese pupils – 81% of whom achieved five good GCSE grades last year [2005].”

The challenging questions as much concern why ethnic Chinese school students continue to out-perform the grade attainment of other ethnicities in the GCSE exams taken by thousands of candidates each year.


David 04.22.06 at 5:44 am

I’m quite sure this bill will never pass, but as with many of Verdonk’s ideas that was probably never really the intention. Last January she wanted to introduce a national “code of conduct” that included the rule that Dutch should be the only language spoken in public spaces. A completely idiotic idea, but she did score a lot of points with the racist voters the VVD has been courting at least since the days of Frits Bolkestein – the people who might make her the new leader of the party soon. The same thing is happening now: it’s proposing the idea that matters. (FMA)


JohnTh 04.22.06 at 6:53 am

ALthough this law may well fall foul of EU law, its main purpose may well be to put pressure on the Antillian government. Rightly or wrongly there is an idea in the Netherlands that the Antilles are deliberately exporting the most criminal youth of their failing society to the Netherlands, and point to the fact that young Antillians in the Netherlands show crime rates that are a good eal worse even than those of other deprived minorities. The Dutch have therefore been trying for years to get the Antillian government to keep a lid on this


Robin Green 04.22.06 at 7:44 am

Haha, that would be classic if true – a kind of Australia in reverse!


abb1 04.22.06 at 8:20 am

Ah, this reminds a guy I know, British Londoner of Jamaican descent, who after the London bombings last year said that he is expecting an announcement that Jamaicans did it somehow, because, he says, when something happens in London, the authorities seem to always manage to come up with Jamaican who is responsible. I just laughed, but sure enough a few days later: Revealed: fourth bomber Jamaican. Wtf?


Tim Worstall 04.22.06 at 8:27 am

Foul stuff but the legal status of some of the overseas territories is a little odd. For example, the French places like St Martin, Martinique and so on are part of France, elect Deputies to Paris and all. But EU citizens don’t have complete freedom of movement to them: on at least some of the islands you have to prove you have a hotel room before you can pass through customs/immigration. Same on St Maarten a few years back.
I’ve no idea whether Antilleans have complete freedom of movement within the EU: but do know that we don’t there (or, rather, didn’t. Might have changed)


Brett Bellmore 04.22.06 at 9:58 am

” communities continue to suffer firearms related crime and the devastating impact it has on their lives.”

When ever I read stuff like this, I can’t help wondering if the author thinks having your head caved in with a baseball bat is just, you know, one of those things people shrug off.


otto 04.22.06 at 10:05 am

At first sight, this looks no more convincing than complaining pre 1997 that British subjects from Hong Kong could be sent back to Hong Kong from the United Kingdom. And the wrap-up with references to the sovereign’s oath has elements of nutter-ism about it, like complaining that HM shd not sign the Maastricht treaty because of her coronation oath.


Matt Weiner 04.22.06 at 12:37 pm

Brett, if you had the choice between being hit with a baseball bat or shot with a gun, which would you take?


Sebastian Holsclaw 04.22.06 at 1:48 pm

Are we talking 9mm or .45? :)


Brett Bellmore 04.22.06 at 1:48 pm

No less convincing, actually, Otto. British citizens residing in Hong Kong really got hosed.

Matt, neither, which is the point.


otto 04.22.06 at 2:04 pm

If the complaint is just that subject/citizens in colonies have different rights and obligations than subjects/citizens in the colonising country, that is in the very nature of the relationship. It seems both odd and secondary to be complaining about laws based on that difference. You might as well say why couldn’t HK-ers vote in elections to the House of Commons? etc etc


Brett Bellmore 04.22.06 at 5:06 pm

I would say the complaint is that the right to travel freely throughout the British empire was a right citizens of Hong Kong already had, and England took that right away from them, prior to the handover.

In order that China would get a “complete set”, as it were.


David Sucher 04.23.06 at 12:41 am

I wouldn’t be quite so quick to condemn the proposal until after one has read the PDF. While the author does not like the proposed solution, he recognizes that there is a very real problem of crime by “non-Dutch” Dutch.

It struck me at first reading as an extremely intelligent commentary which does not mince words.


a 04.23.06 at 12:51 am

“…The people in question are Dutch citizens of as good a legal title as anyone else…”

“…a special legal status for young Dutch citizens of Caribbean descent…”

Clearly a new law can change “legal title” (provided it isn’t inconsistent with other laws…)


mc 04.23.06 at 8:56 am

I would not support this proposed law. However, I find myself troubled by the ways in which some are attacking it. Even when something is obviously wrong, it is worth being clear about exactly why – because of what it will tell us about less obvious cases – and of course there are many other proposals and actual practices which are similar in shape to this one, though less immediately shocking.

In this spirit i will quickly list a few possible reasons why people might object to this particular proposal, and then say which of them I agree with.

1. the stated motivations are not the true ones – the true ones are racist
2. the stated motivations are not the true ones – the true ones pander to racism
3. the % of the target group alleged to be involved in crime is exaggerated
4. the % of the target group alleged to be involved in crime is not high enough to justify action
5. the % of the target group alleged to be involved in crime is not high enough to justify this kind of action
6. there are better ways of achieving the desired outcome
7. it is wrong because (in virtue of relying on statistical generalisations about certain types of people) it fails to treat people as individuals
8. it is wrong because it is fails to treat people as individuals, and while this is ok when it comes to certain ways of classifying people, it is not ok when it comes to racial classifications (or – let us call this 8b – when it comes to racial classifications or national classifications which coincide too closely with racial ones)
9. it is wrong because it is fails to treat people as individuals, and while this is ok in some areas of policy, it is not ok in this particular area
10. it is wrong because questions of criminality are irrelevant to citizenship
11. it is wrong because citizenship once given should never be revoked

Clearly these are very different kinds of objections. Some can be described as objections of ‘principle’, others of fact, others a mixture of the two. Most can be combined – indeed some of the combinations are very natural (eg 3 and 4 usually go along with, and are explained by, 1).

For my part, I would not support this law because of 2 (I just don’t know enough about the personalities involved to make a judgement on 1, but I think I do know enough to make a judgement on 2), plus a combination of a version of 8b and 6 (i.e., I think national classificiations which coincide closely with racial classifications should be used only as an absolute last resort, and I doubt that the proponents of this law have done enough to show that there aren’t other better options).

But some people’s reactions seem to me to reflect some of the other arguments here, some of which I disagree with (eg 4 and 5 (nb I disagree with these only once they are separated from 8/8b, and are just about the numbers involved) and 7, 10, 11), and others of which I would like a bit more elaboration of (9). How about everyone else?


Matt Weiner 04.23.06 at 11:08 am

While the author does not like the proposed solution, he recognizes that there is a very real problem of crime by “non-Dutch” Dutch.

Actually, on pp. 5-7 he seems to be saying that the Dutch government’s claims of this are bullshit. And on pp. 10-11 he says that the problem of crime among poor youth is much greater than any problem of crime by Dutch-Caribbean youth, and the only rationale for this bill is that there’s a place to ship Dutch-Caribbean youth.

Anyway, every country has a real problem of crime by men as opposed to women. Shall we create a second-class status for men, under which they can be expelled from the country?


David Sucher 04.23.06 at 11:43 am

I read page 10 (bottom paragraph and please don’t overlook the term “insufficiently assimilated”) as clearly indicating that there is indeed a problem and it is related to young men who are not ethnically Dutch i.e. they are of non-European ethnicity. He simply doesn’t like the solution because it is unfair and doesn’t include Moroccans for a variety of other legal issues. (And I am not arguing for any solution, either, of course.)

All I am suggesting is that by my reading, the author of a paper critical of a particular solution does NOT deny that there is indeed an underlying problem of youth criminality. And the problem is differential rates of crime among recent immigrants, which means that the problem does indeed run along ethnic/racial lines.

It is NOT racist to recognize race/ethnicity etc etc. A particular solution may be racist but acknoweldging that some groups have higher rates of crime seems to me to be exactly what the author is saying.

There may be some disagreement over the reason why some groups are “insufficiently assimilated” but acknowledging that fact is not racist.


Daniel 04.24.06 at 1:35 am

When ever I read stuff like this, I can’t help wondering if the author thinks having your head caved in with a baseball bat is just, you know, one of those things people shrug off.

I never in my life heard of anyone who happened to walk past a baseball bat fight and got caught in the cross-batting.


abb1 04.24.06 at 2:40 am

There may be some disagreement over the reason why some groups are “insufficiently assimilated” but acknowledging that fact is not racist.

Well, David, as you probably know correlation does not imply causation. I haven’t read the link, but clearly – to imply causation in this particular case just may, indeed, be racist.


David Sucher 04.24.06 at 6:13 am

You might just want to read it before you comment.


abb1 04.24.06 at 6:47 am

It has nothing to do with your comment, I was talking about the proposal. Sorry.


Alex Voorhoeve 04.24.06 at 6:54 am

I’ve posted a rather long comment, so I’ve broken it up into parts:

1. Background

I asked Chris to post the information on this draft legislation because I have been worried by what I perceive as an increasing tendency in Dutch politics to propose rules or legislation that, in the name of ‘reducing crime’ or ‘improving integration’ or ‘making ordinary Dutch people feel “at home” in their own cities’, may involve discriminatory limitations of individuals’ rights.

One example is the idea floated by minister Verdonk of Integration and Immigration to have a “national code of conduct”, which would include a requirement to speak Dutch in public (also mentioned by david in post 6.) Verdonk proposed this at the launch of such a code of conduct by the city of Rotterdam. (For those who can read Dutch, the link is On the face of it, this code is an admirable attempt by a city plagued by increasing unease over changes in its ethnic makeup, relatively high unemployment and relatively high crime among certain immigrant groups, and a loss of a sense of common identity, to articulate and re-affirm certain shared values and responsibilities. These include non-discrimination, a stand against extremism in any form, and a requirement to educate one’s children to be good citizens who can speak Dutch. However, one of the requirements, ‘Citizens of Rotterdam use Dutch as a common language’, is more worrying. Its implications are spelt out as follows in an accompanying document ( ‘We speak Dutch in public: in school, at work, in the street, in the community centre’. Minister Verdonk proposed that this requirement should apply everywhere in The Netherlands, since ‘ordinary Dutch citizens no longer felt at home [interestingly, she used an originally German expression ‘unheimisch’ to say this] in their own country, hearing all these different languages in the street, in public transport, etc.’

This proposal involves a potentially significant limitation of free speech, either through government enforcement or through justifying public pressure on those who decide to converse in, say, Arabic while sitting on a park bench, or while taking the tube. Though Verdonk was heavily criticised and withdrew her proposal, the Rotterdam-code still stands.

It will also be regarded as more burdensome for immigrants and the first generation born of immigrants in the Netherlands. It singles our a normal and innocent activity–speaking in your mother tongue in public–as something wrong. Hence it strikes me as discriminatory.

2. The proposed law allowing for deportation of Dutch citizens born in the Netherlands’ Antilles or Aruba.

There is no doubt that crime is significantly higher among young men of Antillean and Aruban descent (who are mostly black) than is it among other residents of The Netherlands of the same age group. The question is what to do about this problem.

Though I think some of Justice Jacob Wit’s remarks are needlessly suggestive of racist intent on the part of the Dutch government (the suggestion that the Netherlands Antilles will be treated as ‘thuislande’ or ‘homelands’ like those instituted by the South African Apartheid regime is one such example), his analysis, overall, strikes me as compelling.

It strikes me that the main point is that the proposed legislation will introduce unequal treatment, treatment that is likely to be stigmatising and may well reinforce racial prejudice, for a group of Dutch nationals without adequate justification.

Though, as Wit says, the draft law does not, on the face of it, deny entry to those young men who have not been expelled from The Netherlands for petty crimes, it nevertheless appears to permit denying entry to those who cannot show proof of coming to The Netherlands for schooling or work, or who plan to return home within three months.

As we can glean from the numbers provided, entry might therefore be denied to around 400 Antillean young men in the age 16-24 a year (30% of the approx. 1300 who enter the country now without clear indication that they will work or study). Basically, the point is that in order to restrict entry of these “at risk youths”, who have committed no crime, an entire group will be treated as “dangerous and prone to anti-social behaviour”. The stigmatizing effects of this law will no doubt extend to all those of Carribbean descent residing in The Netherlands.

A further point is that the proposed legislation probably contravenes EU agreements for free movement of EU citizens.

The idea that Dutch of Antillean or Aruban descent who commit a crime worthy of less than three years’ incarceration can be expelled from the Netherlands instead of serving their sentence singles out this group alone for a special kind of punishment. It has the bad side effect of making it a publicly recognised form of punishment to have to reside in the Antilles and Aruba. It also risks placing a great burden on these relatively small, and already troubled islands.

It would seem that the government of the Netherlands and of the Antilles and Aruba should therefore work first and foremost towards improving the situation on the islands and the prospects and motivation of the group in question in non-stigmatising ways.


David Sucher 04.24.06 at 8:57 am

The only problem that I see with the insistence that Dutch be spoken in public — and it’s not a small problem — is enforcement. First of all you have to carve out an exception for foreigners, mere tourists and business travellers. And then exceptions for recent immigrants, especially the grandma and grandpa who try as they might, are too old to learn any fluency. There are Dutch students wanting to practice their German or English or Italian. probably other exceptions as well.

But as the Dutch language (and the customs which go along with it) are likely the only or best way to integrate immigrants, somehgow creating the cultural norm that “This is Holland. We speak Dutch.” is a very good idea. A law requiring it be spoken in public may not be practical.

“Millions for Dutch as a Second Language. Not a penny for multi-lingualism.”

That would be my motto if I were Dutch. Newcomers must be invited to integrate and newcomers must integrate.


Elliott Oti 04.24.06 at 11:49 am

The only problem that I see with the insistence that Dutch be spoken in public—and it’s not a small problem—is enforcement.

I see more than one problem. I was born in the Netherlands, I live there now, I pay my taxes and I will speak any language in public I damn well please.

Note to those who insist that “newcomers must integrate”: most “newcomers” are second or third generation, born and raised in the Netherlands and it’s our country too. Deal with it. A fair-skinned Dutchman has not one iota more claim to “rights” than I do; we were both born here, we are both citizens, and I do not accept that he has any more right to dictate how I choose to live my life than I his.


David Sucher 04.24.06 at 1:46 pm

Fair enough, Elliott Oti.
Then how would you propose that newcomers should be integrated into Dutch society?

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