Dutch Cabinet must also admit direct discrimination by tax office: experts
The Dutch government did not go far enough by admitting that the Tax Authority was sometimes guilty of institutional racism, various discrimination experts said to NU.nl. The Cabinet must also recognize that there was direct discrimination and accept the legal consequences thereof, according to the experts, including the National Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism.
On Monday, State Secretary Marnix van Rij (Tax and Tax Authority) said that cases of direct discrimination "must be assessed and established per case or group of comparable cases." He also said that while there was institutional racism in parts of the Tax Authority, there was "no policy at all" behind the blocklisting of innocent people. He said officials did it "unknowingly" and "without bad faith."
According to Rabin Baldewsingh, the National Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism, the Cabinet is not showing the whole picture with this acknowledgment. "Why does the Cabinet not want to talk about direct discrimination? Spreadsheets were made on the basis of nationality and religion. That could not have been an unknowing act on the part of civil servants. The system was very emphatically leading here, and not so much unknowing action."
Van Rij's promise to address the issue by "creating awareness" is also insufficient, Baldewsing added. "Very nice that he has recognized the institutional racism. Now he has to push through. He says he will do that with awareness. But hat if this discrimination was not a matter of awareness, but was caused by the system?"
The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights also said the Cabinet's recognition fell short. "Openness about the mistakes that have been made is part of the recognition," the Institute said to the newspaper. "If this has legal consequences, then the Cabinet must accept them." Van Rij does no justice to the severity of the matter by saying that there was no malicious intent. "It is true that institutional racism does not necessarily involve malicious or racist intent on the part of the officials. But that does not detract from the severity of the consequences for the individuals affected."
Hanneke Felten, a researcher at Movisie, doesn't think Van Rij's proposed "cultural change" will be enough to address this issue. She called for an external authority to which the Tax Authority should be accountable for its policy. "Being accountable to, for example, the National Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism or the Institute for Human Rights means that the non-commitment is gone. The Tax Authority can then be checked for equal treatment," she said. "This was not unconscious prejudices at the Tax Authority. It is of very little use to be aware of your prejudices about ethnically diverse people if you are subsequently instructed to keep an extra eye on them."