THE HAGUE–The law proposal initiative of the Party for Freedom PVV to send back persons born in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten once they have committed a crime while living in the Netherlands has no support in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.
During the plenary handling of the proposal of PVV Members of the Second Chamber Sietse Fritsma and Machiel de Graaf on Thursday, it became clear that none of the parties present was in favour of solving the problem of criminal Dutch Caribbean persons in the Netherlands by putting them on a plane to the islands. A highly critical Member of Parliament (MP) Selçuk Öztürk of the DENK party called this practice “forced deportation.”
The liberal democratic VVD party, the Socialist Party (SP), the Christian Democrat Party CDA, the Democrats D66, the Labour Party PvdA and the Reformed Political Party SGP agreed that something needed to be done about the long-time overrepresentation of “Antilleans” in crime statistics but sending this group back after they have done their time in jail was a bridge too far for the parties that took part in Thursday’s plenary handling.
Aside from the PVV, the representatives of the parties that were present were unanimous in their criticism. Some MPs called the law proposal discriminatory and disproportionate, but generally it was agreed that the law proposal as presented by the PVV was legally untenable and unrealistic.
MP Ronald van Raak (SP) pointed out that not only persons of Dutch Caribbean descent, but also persons originating from Suriname and Morocco were overrepresented in the crime statistics. He noted that it mostly concerned youngsters who didn’t have a future on the islands who, once they came to the Netherlands, also didn’t have a future here.
However, the PVV law proposal would not tackle the overrepresentation of persons from the Dutch Caribbean, said Van Raak. “We don’t solve that with a law, but through agreements with the island governments. What we need is an agreement and a policy to prevent these youngsters from getting on the plane to the Netherlands,” he said.
MP Madeleine van Toorenburg (CDA) considered the law proposal too drastic and disproportionate. She said when addressing the problem of overrepresentation of Dutch Caribbean persons in crime statistics, it was important to take preventive measures.
A law should also be feasible for it to work in practice. If there were to be legislation containing measures to address the criminal behaviour of this group of people, it would have to be in the format of a Kingdom Law with the input of the islands, Van Toorenburg said. “It is too bad, because again it is a missed opportunity to really address this issue.”
MP Maarten Groothuizen (D66) said his party not only had legal doubts about PVV’s law proposal, but also objections of a principle nature because the law sought to send back criminal persons to Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. “I don’t think this is possible and I am sure that I don’t want this,” he said.
Groothuizen also noted that discrimination was not allowed according to the Dutch Constitution. Besides, he said, the Kingdom Charter defines the undivided character of the Dutch nationality. Making a distinction based on national descent is also in violation of multiple international treaties, he added. He said the PVV law proposal turned persons from the islands into second-class citizens. He said the way to deal with all criminals, no matter where they came from, was to arrest, prosecute, sentence and jail them, followed by rehabilitation.
MP Attje Kuiken (PvdA) reminded the PVV that Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are part of the Kingdom. “Together we are one Kingdom and we share the Dutch citizenship. You have to be pretty well grounded to come with a law proposal that infringes on those shared values and you have to come with solid reasons to do so.”
Kuiken agreed that problematic Dutch Caribbean youngsters were an issue in the Netherlands. “It is evident that we have a problem. But the focus should be more on prevention. We will not support this law proposal which we find disproportionate and discriminatory,” she said.
Roelof Bisschop (SGP) also concurred with the findings that Dutch Caribbean people represented a high percentage in the crime statistics. “That puts a lot of strain on the justice system and on society as a whole.” But, there is a shared responsibility to tackle this in the Kingdom and prevention is the key, he remarked.
André Bosman (VVD) said he very well recognised the issue of Dutch Caribbean persons who were overrepresented in crime statistics, and that he too had tried, via his own law proposal initiative in 2016, to tackle this problem. He used the opportunity to argue for the commonwealth structure that he wants to see implemented instead of having a Kingdom where the Netherlands is mainly responsible.
Alexander Kops (PVV) defended the law proposal and said that protecting public order and safety was “sufficient reason” to send criminals back to their country. “If you can’t behave in this country, then what are you doing here?” He noted that the Caribbean countries also have a regulation in place whereby Dutch people who have committed a crime are expelled. “That is decisiveness and something other than the weak attitude in this Parliament.”
Öztürk accused the PVV of “sowing hate.” “We are talking forced deportation of Dutch Caribbean people. Next time it is criminal Surinamese people, or persons from Morocco, Turkey or Indonesia. The PVV creates scapegoats and demonises entire groups in society, and that is a very dangerous thing,” said Öztürk, who showed a list with transgressions committed by PVV politicians.
Even though they have no support in the Second Chamber, Fritsma and De Graaf intend to continue with the legislation process. The debate will continue after the summer recess at which time the MPs will respond to the questions posed by their colleagues.
Speaking to the media after Thursday’s meeting, Fritsma accused the other political parties, especially the VVD and CDA, of making excuses. “These parties have been saying for years that this group of Antilleans is a problem. But if push comes to shove, they get off with excuses, arguing that they can’t support this law proposal, without even giving a good argument for doing so,” he said.
According to Fritsma, the other parties can adapt the law proposal through amendments if they don’t agree with certain parts. “It is rather strange, because they are only voicing criticism, but they are not proposing to make amendments. I can only conclude that it is political unwillingness,” said Fritsma, who emphasised that the PVV’s motive was to look out for the safety of the Dutch citizens.
The PVV law proposal differs from the past draft legislation initiative of MP André Bosman (VVD) to establish a residency regulation for immigrants from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, a proposal that never made it because it was voted down in the Second Chamber. The law proposal of Fritsma and De Graaf is stricter.
Fritsma and De Graaf explained that under the Bosman law proposal only very severe crimes can have consequences for the right to residency of Antilleans in the Netherlands, while in this proposed legislation of the initiators every crime can have consequences.
Another difference is that that the Bosman law proposal dealt with the admittance of Dutch Caribbean persons to the Netherlands, while the current PVV proposed legislation concerns persons from the countries who are already living in the Netherlands. The PVV law proposal only concerns first-generation Dutch Caribbean persons, those who were born on the islands, and not second-generation ones.
The PVV law proposal includes a so-called sliding scale, whereby a person who has been residing in the Netherlands for a short period and who has committed a severe crime can be sent back without delay, but only after he or she did the jail time.