Kingdom of the Netherlands
Head of state: King Willem-Alexander
Head of government: Mark Rutte

Irregular migrants continued to be routinely deprived of their liberty and the government still did not adequately consider alternatives to detention. Ethnic profiling by the police continued to be a matter of serious concern.


Following a fire in a detention facility in Rotterdam on 25 May, several migrants were placed in solitary confinement as a punitive measure for "disturbing public order" during the evacuation.

In October, a draft law regulating immigration detention was tabled before Parliament. It offered minor improvements, but major concerns remained as irregular migrants could be deprived of their liberty for a wide range of reasons. The punitive character of the detention regime also remained in place. Furthermore, the draft law included powers to hold migrants in a cell for at least 16 hours a day.


The authorities remained unwilling to implement the recommendation by the European Committee of Social Rights that all people, including irregular migrants, should have unconditional access to shelter and other basic necessities.


Ethnic profiling by police

Ethnic profiling by the police continued to be a matter of serious concern. While the authorities acknowledged the damaging effects of ethnic profiling, they failed to formulate a comprehensive plan for the fair and effective use of stop-and-search powers. The police also continued to refuse to systematically monitor and record stop-and-search operations, making it difficult to assess whether measures to combat ethnic profiling, such as training, diversity management and dialogue with communities, were effective in reducing discrimination.

Partial ban on face-covering

A government proposal for a ban on face-covering attire in certain spaces, such as public transport and public educational and health care institutions, passed the House of Representatives in November but was still pending before the Senate. The ban would restrict the rights to freedom of religion and of expression, particularly of Muslim women.


In May, the House of Representatives passed two controversial administrative counter-terrorism bills, which were likely to be debated by the Senate in early 2017. If enacted, the laws would enable the Minister of Security and Justice to impose administrative control measures on individuals, including travel bans, based on indications that they may pose a future terrorist risk. It would also allow for the revocation of Dutch nationality of dual citizens who have travelled abroad to join a foreign terrorist group and are believed to pose a risk to national security. The procedures to appeal the imposition of the measures lacked effective safeguards.

In October, a draft law on the Intelligence and Security Services was presented to Parliament. If enacted, the law would legitimize sweeping surveillance powers for the intelligence and security services, potentially leading to violations of the right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression and the right to non-discrimination. The draft law provides insufficient safeguards against abuse of powers by the intelligence and security services, and there are serious concerns that communications could be shared with other countries where the information could be used for human rights violations.


Since February, Nada Kiswanson, a human rights lawyer based in The Hague, representing the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, has been the subject of ongoing threats in response to her work at the International Criminal Court. She has received several death threats and been subjected to interference of her communications, intimidation, harassment and defamation. However, only in April did the Dutch authorities take specific measures to protect her and launch an investigation.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.