Court bans racial profiling by Dutch military police during border checks

Court bans racial profiling by Dutch military police during border checks

In a landmark case in The Hague on Tuesday, a court ruled that the Marechaussee have discriminated against people of colour during border checks, and prohibited the Dutch military police from selecting travellers for random checks solely because of their skin colour. 

Checks at Dutch border based on travellers' ethnicity

The case was brought to court by a number of Dutch citizens and various human rights groups such as Amnesty International, with Tuesday’s decision overturning a ruling from September 2021 which stated that the Marechaussee could continue to select members of the public for border checks based on their ethnicity. 

While the Marechaussee announced in November 2021 that it would no longer racially profile travellers during border checks, the state argued that skin colour might be a relevant factor when it came to carrying out border controls. 

The ruling affects MTV checks (Mobile Security Supervision) carried out by the Marechaussee on roads and at airports and train stations, which are used to combat illegal migration and cross-border crime. RTL Nieuws reports that the checks are carried out based on a series of risk profiles used by the Marechaussee, “such as the “Nigerian money smuggler”: fast-moving, well-dressed with a “non-Dutch appearance”.”

Court rules racial profiling by Marechaussee is discrimination

The state’s defence didn’t convince the court, which ruled that ethnicity was being used by the Marechaussee as a decisive reason for carrying out checks: “If only the skin colour had been different, no selection would have taken place." The court also found that ethnicity did not provide an indication of nationality, meaning it was not a good basis for MTV policy. 

"Discrimination on the basis of race, without objective and reasonable justification, is a particularly serious form of discrimination,” said the court, which argued that the practice also had a widespread negative impact on society in the Netherlands as a whole: "Dutch people with a skin colour other than white can feel ostracised and like second-class citizens because of this."

Dutch government could choose to appeal landmark ruling

In response to Tuesday’s decision, State Secretary for Justice and Security Eric van der Burg has said the court’s ruling will be implemented “in full”, telling the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) that he will instruct the Marechaussee to ensure ethnicity is no longer used as a reason for checks at the Dutch border. 

While it is not yet clear whether Van der Burg and the cabinet will appeal the ruling, various political parties have called on the government not to take any further legal action. According to Van der Burg, a decision on the matter is likely to be reached next week.

Thumb: Dutchmen Photography via

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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