In the Netherlands, ethnicity can be a reason for an immigration control

Human right organizations rebuked from claims of a discriminatory practice

On September 22, the Court of Justice of the Netherlands ruled that the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee may use ethnicity as an indicator in immigration control.

Netherlands' Marechausse
For the Court of Justice, ethnicity can be an objective indication of someone’s alleged nationality | © Ministry of Defense

In its ruling, the Court of Justice sees no reason for a general ban of the use of ethnicity for immigration control.

The case was brought by Amnesty International, NJCM, Radar Foundation, Control Alt Delete and two individual plaintiffs.

They sued the State of the Netherlands arguing people with dark skin colors are more likely to be controlled. They claimed using ethnicity in stop and searches by Dutch border police was discriminatory.

The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee is the Dutch civil force in charge of border and immigration control. The case concerned the Mobile Security Surveillance, the supervision of people traveling to the Netherlands from a Schengen country.

For the Court, using ethnicity in controls establishing residency status is not a form of discrimination. “Nationality can play an important role, and ethnicity can be an objective indication of someone’s alleged nationality“, it stated.

Moreover, “random checks or making no selections at all and checking everyone does not offer a reasonable alternative“, adding that “ethnicity is never the only indicator“.

For Amnesty International, a violation of the Dutch constitution

The Court considers those controls are different from investigating criminal offenses, in which there may be suspicions or indications of illegality.

For Amnesty International, the decision to allow the use of ethnic profiling “throws international human rights law out of the window” said the Netherlands’ Director, Dagmar Oudshoorn. It also “tramples” Article 1 of the Dutch constitution.

The first article of the Dutch constitution states that “all persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.

Amnesty International and other NGOs want to appeal the decision.

Read more about the Netherlands

De Koninklijke Marechaussee mag etniciteit gebruiken bij vreemdelingentoezicht, Court of Justice, September 2021, Free access The Netherlands: Decision to allow continued use of ethnic profiling “throws international human rights law out of the window”, Amnesty International, September 2021, Free accessThe Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 2018, Government of the Netherlands, Free access

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