Utrecht willing to help pay to change surnames linked to slavery
Netherlands residents who want to change their surname because it is linked with slavery are often blocked in doing so by high bills and mountains of paperwork. The municipality of Utrecht wants to make it easier for people with such a surname to change it, and will pay the bill itself if necessary, the municipality said to NU.nl.
Enslaved people brought to the Netherlands were often given names linked to that of the slave owner, for example 'Vriesde' derived from 'De Vries', or 'Kenswil' from 'Wilkens'. Some were given a surname based on the city they ended up in, or even the plantation.
If you want to change your surname in the Netherlands, you can submit a request to do so to Justis, the Ministry of Justice and Security's screening service. That costs at least 835 euros. If your surname is, for example, "Poepjies", you don't have to prove that the name makes trouble for you. But for surnames originating in the Netherlands' colonial past, the service often requires a psychological examination. Added to the name change request amount, people often face bills of thousands of euros. And there is no guarantee that this will end with your name being changed.
Utrecht finds this unacceptable and is looking into how to make it easier for people who want to change their surname because of its links to the colonial past. The municipality expects to know in December how many residents want to change their surname for this reason, and whether the municipality is able to bear that cost.
Together with Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, Utrecht also pleaded with the Dutch government to scrap the costs involved in name changes due to the colonial past.