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UN experts express concern about racial bias in Dutch child welfare system

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GENEVA (12 November 2018) – UN human rights experts* have expressed serious concerns about the prevalence of racism in the Dutch welfare system, citing the case of a family of refugees of African descent living in the Netherlands whose children were forcibly removed from their parents’ care.

Research shows that negative stereotypes about parents of African descent drive heightened reporting of maltreatment and greater involvement with state agencies for children of African descent, the UN experts said. Civil society reports disparities in how the social welfare system treats white Dutch families compared to those of African descent, they added.

Police in May removed the seven children, including an infant still being breastfed, reportedly without due consideration of their best interests, preserving the family structure or first providing instruction to combat problems in the home, the experts said. The decision to remove the children from the home was taken without any judicial oversight. In the months since, no visitation has been allowed, and the children have not been able to see their parents.

“This family separation has caused immense trauma and psychological damage and we are deeply troubled about the impact on the children’s physical and mental wellbeing,” the experts said. “Any separation of a child from his or her parents should only occur as a last resort and must comply with international human rights law.

“We have raised our concerns with the Government of the Netherlands, and called on them to investigate this case, reunite the family and guarantee equal treatment before the law,” the experts said.

The Government, in response, denied racial discrimination or impropriety and indicated claims of racial bias may be reported to the police and local anti-discrimination services.

The experts called on the Government to ensure immediate and ongoing visitation until the family is reunified and take steps to end racial bias in the child welfare system.


  • ***The UN experts**: Mr. Michal Balcerzak, Chairperson, on behalf of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The Working Group and Special Rapporteur are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.*

UN Human Rights, country page – the Netherlands

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For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 /

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