We already knew, but now it has officially been confirmed: the Dutch tax authorities have been proven guilty of using ethnic profiling for years. Many lives have been destroyed and the human suffering that resulted from this, cannot be repaired. The policy has even resulted in a tragic suicide. The institutional racism in our country, which BIJ1 has been talking about for a long time, has been undeniably exposed. The tax authorities need to be radically reformed. The people responsible for these wrongdoings and crimes can and should not escape punishment.
A country that presents itself as a guardian of international law, is also the country where more than 11,000 people have been selected for additional checks by the tax authorities on the basis of their (second) nationality. Having a second nationality was an official selection criterium to determine whether there was an ‘increased risk of fraud’. This was one of five criteria, but if, for example, someone met the other four criteria but did not have a second nationality, an additional check was not carried out. It is completely unacceptable that in a country that prides itself on its democratic and tolerant values, ethnic profiling is literally part of policy.
The claims of the Tax Administration office that people’s (second) nationality hasn’t been registered since 2015 has previously been proved to be untrue. These personal data were in fact still being stored and used for years to come. The data was used to draw up a list of parents for whom the childcare allowance had to be stopped and (re)claimed. As a result, debts skyrocketed and thousands of families fell into severe financial difficulties. Families have been destroyed and one of the affected parents was even driven to suicide.
In the Netherlands, a citizen is powerless against a powerful government-institution such as the Tax Authorities. This is also evident in the (lack of) settlement of the allowance disaster that’s been going on for years. Solutions for the people affected are still nowhere near in sight: parents who requested their files months ago, have still not been able to review it, and the settlements for compensations have still made no progress either. Incidentally, real recovery is only possible by proving that the Tax Administration office is structurally being changed
‘Many families have fallen into the abyss through this deliberate ethnic profiling of the Tax Administration office. We must hold the perpetrators of this disaster accountable and take sustainable action to eradicate institutional racism as a whole.’Sylvana Simons, party leader BIJ1
Government in denial
Employees started sounding the alarms early as 2014. The then Minister Asscher and State Secretary Wiebes must have been aware, but have ignored several alarming signals. Subsequently, the Council of State, the highest court of law that can rule on a dispute between the citizen and the government, also contributed to the preservation of the racist policies. The hundreds of victims who filed lawsuits against the Tax Authorities were unsuccessful under the vice-chairmanship of Piet Hein Donner (former CDA Minister of Justice). This way, the racist policy could continue to be used for years, with severe consequences for the families.
‘If a person ended up in the objection- and appeal procedures, for example, then individual officials took it a step further: they only had to see a name to look for grounds for rejection.’Hella, a former employee of the Tax Adminstration office, left because of racism within the organization
Time for action!
An immense evil and enormous injustice has been done to thousands of people. It proves that government officials can be expected to actively discriminate. Band-aids are no longer enough. Serious and adequate action is needed, immediately.
- Compensate all families affected by these crimes of institutional racism. We mean serious compensations: after all, there is no amount of money that can sufficiently compensate the suffering of these people. The government must take responsibility and compensate as best as possible for the problems it has caused.
- Conduct a parliamentary inquiry into institutional racism at the Tax Authorities and the parts ministers and civil servants play in it.
- Hold the policymakers responsible. They must be tried for the drafting and implementation of discriminatory policies. They are to blame for the consequences this has had for thousands of families, the gagging and abuse of power, and the death of a person.
- Fire employees who have knowingly contributed to this. Only then can we start working on the eradication of racism at the Tax Authorities.
- Protect whistleblowers unconditionally, to ensure wrongdoings like this can be detected and addressed sooner.
- Conduct wider research into institutional racism. Not only at the Tax Authorities, but also at other government agencies that have shown indications of structural racism and forms of discrimination, such as the UWV, CBR and SVB.
- Compel municipalities to investigate their own institutions and facilities for discrimination and institutional racism. In doing so, the government must not only provide funding but also facilitate concrete support to ensure that the investigations are run as transparent and unadulterated as possible.
- Take all necessary steps to eradicate racism from institutions through the leadership and expertise of people of colour.
- Establish a Constitutional Court that assesses policies, laws and treaties against the Constitution. Remove Article 120 of the Constitution which makes this kind of discriminatory practice impossible.
- End the use of ethnic registration and registration of nationality by the Tax Authorities immediately. Prohibit the use of such data for other government services if it cannot be guaranteed that it won’t be damaging.
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