The Dutch Government is torn between life and death over a scandal of racial discrimination in the approval of aid to 26,000 parents for the care of their children. Two months before the general elections and in the midst of a pandemic, the Executive of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, will decide on the 15th if he resigns to assume responsibilities.
It is the biggest political and administrative scandal in the Netherlands, according to commentators. Tens of thousands of families, mostly of Turkish and Moroccan origin, were victims of false accusations of fraud of the allowance they used to finance the care of their children and were forced to return huge amounts of money to the Treasury, sometimes up to 100,000 euros, within weeks, leading many to lose their home, their job or go into debt for it.
The first cases date back to 2014, when the tax authorities began to send letters to parents communicating the withdrawal of the aid they received to pay for their children’s daycare, and accused them of tax fraud, asking them to justify the expense and their financial situation with receipts, babysitting bills and employment contracts.
The accusations were made apparently without any basis, and the tax agency did not give explanations to those affected either, later showing that mainly families with foreign origin had been the target of this measure, and that their second nationality was indicated in official documents, something illegal for discriminatory.
The practice continued for years, even to this day. Different researchers – also journalists and deputies whom the Tax Agency itself tried to hinder the search for investigations – see it as a clear case of “institutional bias.”
THE LAWYER WHO OPENED THE MELON
The lawyer Eva González Pérez, of Spanish origin, was the one who raised the alarm in 2014, years before the case exploded in the national press. Her husband ran a babysitting agency in Eindhoven, which was directly affected by the withdrawal of subsidies to these parents, their clients, who pay state aid for their assistance.
“All families have migratory origins. This is a moral problem for many reasons. If someone from the State sends you a letter saying that you do not have the right to something, they have to explain why, and if you can show that you do have the right, they cannot take that aid away from you. But they decided to block all the subsidies, leaving families stranded, even during the appeal, ”he explains to Efe.
As a social lawyer, she decided to help the first group of parents, who turned to her desperate because, no matter how much they sent documents supporting their expenses and justified their need to receive this subsidy, the tax authorities kept the allocation blocked, sometimes keeping them in They waited for years, and in others they were asked to return what they received in unsustainable time frames.
He encountered an insurmountable wall when facing the Treasury. The refusal of the tax authorities to explain and resolve the cases prompted him to appeal to the courts, politicians, journalists, the Data Protection Agency and the Ombudsmen for Children and the People, who published reports critical of the administration and the government.
The case exploded publicly in September 2018, taking over the Secretary of State for Finance, Menno Snel, amid accusations of racial discrimination.
González regrets that “in twenty years of his career, he had never seen anything like this, nor had he gone against the Treasury” because his specialty was labor law and social security. He did not even start his case alleging racial discrimination, but procedural errors that left “all those people unable to pay their bills” and the judge agreed with dozens of victims who now, mixed with other cases, now number 26,000 people.
Many continue to suffer personal and psychological problems as a result of the financial damage suffered. Although the Dutch government decided to compensate their suffering with 30,000 euros and promised to seek solutions for the parents who have lost everything, several families have decided to file a complaint with the Supreme Court against five members of the Executive.
A committee established to investigate what happened concluded that there was an “institutionally biased treatment” by the Treasury, which managed the benefits as a “massive process”, causing the parents not to receive the necessary protection “thus violating the fundamental principles of the rule of law” , and the Data Protection Agency elevated the Treasury’s working method to “illegal, discriminatory and inappropriate.”
Mark Rutte will decide on the 15th, in the Council of Ministers, the political steps for the damage caused. The only thing stopping his resignation is the lack of control of coronavirus infections, but the leaders of the four parties of the coalition agree that the dimensions of the scandal mean that it cannot be silenced by sacrificing only a minister.
Next March is the legislative elections in the Netherlands, in which Rutte wants to seek re-election for his fourth term, but does not rule out that the political consequences of the injustice of the subsidies will throw his plans overboard, causing his cabinet to continue interim form until the elections.