Netherlands lost track of 2.3 million migrant workers: report

People working a tulip field in the Netherlands
People working a tulip field in the NetherlandsA.A.DepositPhotosDeposit Photos

The Dutch authorities lost track of 2.3 million migrant workers - they have a citizen registration number in the Netherlands, but the Dutch authorities have no idea where they are, Trouw reports based on its own research. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate to check whether these people are being exploited.

This involves non-Dutch nationals who indicated that they would be in the Netherlands for less than four months. Whether they left the country is unknown. Where they stayed while in the Netherlands is also unknown, according to the newspaper. It is therefore not possible for the authorities to check whether these workers are working under decent circumstances or are properly housed. 

These migrant workers are registered in the non-resident registration RNI. This register is for people who don't necessarily have an address in the Netherlands, but need a citizen registration or BSN number because they receive money here, such as people who live abroad but receive pension in the Netherlands. Migrant workers can register here without providing an address in the Netherlands. The registration and BSN is permanent - a seasonal worker who works in the Netherlands two months a year only needs to register once.

The downside of the system is that it makes it difficult for the Inspectorate to supervise, because there are no addresses for temporary migrant workers. Migrants are expected to register with a Dutch municipality if they live in the Netherlands for more than four months. The lack of addresses also makes this difficult to follow up on. According to the newspaper, the latest "National image of undermining crime" shows that this rule is "evaded en masse". 

Conny Rijken,  professor on human trafficking and globalization at Tilburg University, called this a massive blind spot. "We have created an invisible group. Since we know that labor migrants and undocumented migrants are vulnerable to various forms of fraud and exploitation, that should at least make us cautious," he said to Trouw.