UN slams Netherlands on Zwarte Piet, religious bias, asylum policy

The United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination has released its report on discrimination in the Netherlands following the meeting with the Dutch delegation in Venice last week. The committee highlighted a number of concerns made recommendations regarding, among other things, Zwarte Piet, ethnic profiling by the police, racist statements made by politicians, antisemitic chants during football games, the asylum policy and ethnic bullying in schools.

"Considering that even a deeply rooted cultural tradition does not justify discriminatory practices and stereotypes, the Committee recommends that [the Netherlands] actively promote the elimination of those features of the character of Black Pete which reflect negative stereotypes and are experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery. The Committee recommends that the State party find a reasonable balance, such as a different portrayal of Black Pete and ensure respect of human dignity and human rights of all inhabitants of the State party.” the Committee writes.

The committee noted that not all municipalities have an anti-discrimination policy that is in line with the State's policy on anti-discrimination and added that it is the national government's responsibility to ensure that all cities comply.

They also expressed concerns about "incidents of racist and xenophobic hate speech emanating from a number of extremist political parties and politicians", the prevalence of "racist discourse in the media" and the increase of racist statements and threats on the internet.  In this regard, the Committee is particularly concerned about the sharp increase in discrimination against members of Jewish and Muslim communities, including the reported increase in verbal abuse, harassment, and physical violence against Jewish and Muslim persons.” The fact that antisemitic chants are "commonplace at football stadiums" is also a big problem.

The UN committee recommends that the Netherlands “adopt a firm stand against the use of hate speech for political purposes, increase efforts to combat racially motivated hate speech and ensure that criminal acts perpetrated on grounds of intersectionality between ethnic origin and religion are duly investigated and prosecuted.“

The committee also recommends that a national plan of action against racial discrimination be developed and adopted, especially given the fact of continuing racial profiling by the police and that this has "produced feelings of mistrust among minority groups and discourages them from accessing help whey they are victims of crime or rights abuses".

According to the committee, the current policy on integration for migrants has shifted from the state to the migrant communities. "This approach puts migrants in particularly vulnerable situations at risk of receiving insufficient attention and support, leaves them vulnerable to social exclusion and hampers their integration". They are also concerned about the asylum policy stating that undocumented migrants only receive assistance if they cooperate with their own departure.

"The Committee reiterates its previous recommendations, and urges the State party to ensure that its integration policies reflect the responsibilities of the State", the committee writes. The government should also ensure that undocumented migrants are provided with food and shelter in all circumstances prior to deportation and that they have access to healthcare in all parts of the Netherlands, which is currently not the case in Curacao and Aruba.

The Netherlands has to report back to the Committee in 2019 on changes and improvements made.