It is becoming more difficult for the Marechaussee to prevent human smuggling now that it is no longer allowed to look at skin color during checks. Or should we simply pay more attention to nervous travelers in line at Schiphol and full vans with blinded windows on the highway?
The checks by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee are becoming less effective and the work is becoming more difficult. Sven Schuitema, chairman of Marechaussee Association Marver, expects this after the ‘historic’ court ruling last Tuesday. The service may no longer allow people’s skin color to be taken into account in determining who is or is not checked.
These are random checks that the Marechaussee carries out at airports and highways close to the border. This involves looking at travelers who travel from one so-called Schengen country to another. Free movement of persons applies between those 27 European countries. Travelers are therefore not automatically checked. These samples are used to combat illegal immigration and cross-border crime, among other things.
For example, planes from Italy, a route that is often used for human smuggling from Africa, could have been subjected to extra scrutiny for people with a dark complexion. “If you are no longer allowed to look at that, it will be more difficult for the Marechaussee to find someone who is trying to enter the country illegally,” says Schuitema about the consequences of the court’s ruling. “Because in this example it is often not white people who try.”
Vietnamese along highway
The Marechaussee itself keeps its jaws tight after the verdict. First, the consequences of this for her work will be examined. But during the court case, an example was previously given about Vietnamese who want to travel illegally to England via mainland Europe. They often climb into trucks at highway parking lots. This also happens in the Netherlands. If the Marechaussee saw two people walking around at night with an Asian appearance, that could be reason to check them.
That is no longer possible from now on. According to Schuitema, this makes it practically impossible to combat human smuggling. “Because that is the ultimate goal. You want to prevent people from being smuggled into the country and then exploited. With the court’s ruling, it will eventually become more difficult to protect these victims.”
Lawyer Sébas Diekstra, former professional military police officer and now reserve chief officer, does not expect that. The Marechaussee was ruled in favor of the court in the same case in 2021, but announced that it would no longer allow ethnicity to play a role in checks. Diekstra: “I don’t have the exact figures ready, but it seems that so many people smuggling suspects have never been arrested as in the past two years.”
According to him, it says enough about the way of working at the Marechaussee and that there are many more aspects that are examined during an inspection. In freeway spot checks, vehicle license plates can yield information, such as where a van is coming from or whether it has been associated with suspicious situations.
“Imagine: you know that many people smugglers are active from a certain city in Germany. Then, when you check the license plate, you see that the van comes from that city and that there are many people in it. Then you can still check it,” says Diekstra. “But it can also be a certain type of car, there can be blinded windows or the car can be heavily loaded.”
Schuitema agrees, but he expects that things will become more difficult, especially at airport checks. Even then there are many aspects that can play a role. A woman with a black eye and her arm being pulled could indicate human trafficking. Diekstra: “Or think of someone who is trying to enter the country illegally and who behaves very nervously and is sweating. There are so many aspects to look at. I am convinced that the Marechaussee can continue to do its job without prejudice.”
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