Meanwhile in the netherlands...

Immigration raids criminalise migrants and control cheap labour

19.Mar.03 - In the last few months, Holland has seen a series of large-scale immigration raids. The first two took place in The Hague and Rotterdam and the media was invited, giving the impression that the authorities were in need of a spectacular event as a deterrence and threat to other migrants to leave the country as well as to show the Dutch public that the authorities really did their ‘job’. After the grand opening, a series of raids followed not only in the Hague and Rotterdam but also in Amsterdam. During these raids, the police was mainly focusing on immigrants from Bulgaria, Romania and other Balkan countries. The raids are characterised by a deployment of a large police force, a stigmatisation of the immigrants and a lack of legal aid and adequate judicial attention.

The first raid took place on 4 September 2002. Eighty two people from Bulgaria were arrested and deported on Thursday morning of 5 September 2002. In the evening of Wednesday, the police raided 23 houses in the Schilderswijk and Transvaal neighbourhoods in the Hague. The raids were carried out by a special police team, the city council and the border police. The mayor of the Hague, W. Deetman, announced that there will be similar actions in the future against ‘the criminal illegal circuit’.

In contrast to the stigmatisation of the immigrants as criminals, most of the deported Bulgarians were working in the horticulture business in 'het Westland' (south-west of Holland), the hotel and the catering industry and the cleaning branch. Most of these workers are working ten to twelve hours a day for about 35 to 40 Euro.

Until the mid-1990's, employers in het Westland mainly hired illegal workers from Turkey and Morocco but they changed to Eastern European workers, who are cheaper: they are paid 3 to 4 Euro an hour in comparison to 6 to 7 Euro an hour for workers from the Mediterranean countries. Another change is that since the implementation of the Linking Act, immigrant workers are depended on ‘job agencies”, which are intermediates between the employer and the workers, because the employers do not want to risk being caught by the WIT. The WIT is the Westland Intervention Team, in which the Work Inspection Authority, the Tax Agency, the Public Prosecutor's Office, several social service offices, various agencies on workers insurance's and the foreign police are working together. In 2001, they raided 451 of the 3.000 horticulture companies in het Westland as well as 218 “job agencies”. Workers say that the controls are mainly in those periods during which there is not much work. So in September and October the controls are the most intense, some workers even have the feeling that employers call the Work Inspection Authority to get rid of the workers. Some workers from Bulgaria commented that if you demand your wages as an employee then most employers call the police and you are arrested and deported.

A week after the much publicised raids and deportations, the issue created headlines again when it was reported that most of the Bulgarian immigrants had returned from Bulgaria to Holland again. Most of the Bulgarians are members of Bulgaria's Turkish minority, for whom there is little future in their own country (34% if the youngsters are unemployed). The raid was organised in such a way that no legal aid could be provided and it was not verified if people really came from Bulgaria or not or if their status was illegal or not.

On Wednesday 13 November 2002, another charter flight deported 115 Bulgarian people who lived in Rotterdam and the Hague. Twelve women were arrested on Saturday, the other people were arrested in the days before Wednesday. Amongst those deported were 76 men, 36 women and three children. According to Mr. Schoof, the director of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), the charter made a stop in France and the passports of the deportees were withdrawn from them for a year. On 17 November 2002, Colonel Grigorov from the Bulgarian border police said that 33% of the 7,099 people who were deported to Bulgaria did not get their passports back.

The raids seem to be staged for publicity more than anything. In an interview the IND director Schoof commented that the Immigration and Naturalisation Service was called three weeks before the first raid on 3 September 2002 with the question if he could “provide a homogenous group". The raid therefore took place at peoples private homes rather than their workplace.

Up to now there have been three raids in Amsterdam. The first one took place on 23 September 2002 and the last one so far on 14 January 2003. The first and the third raid were mainly directed towards undocumented Bulgarian women who are working in the Theemsweg, a place where prostitutes can receive their clients.

On 25 November 2002, the second raid took place in Amsterdam. According to the police, they were only looking for immigrants from the Balkans who "cause trouble". The police raided twenty five places and arrested 87 people from Bulgaria and Romania. The following day, again twenty five people were arrested. They were then deported in two planes, one of which was sent by the Romanian authorities together with Romanian security personnel. Holland had made agreements with Bulgarian and Romanian authorities about the withdrawal of the passports. In some cases the police came too late. The immigrants had already left their houses. Neighbours said that the people had not bothered them and that they did not have any complaints. The police spokeswoman Elly Florax from the Amsterdam police force said that the immigrants were suspected of all kinds of criminal offences such as pick pocketing, shoplifting, burglary, conning tourists with money exchange tricks, false money and the trafficking of women.

O. van der Lee, one of the lawyers of some of the people who were arrested and deported said that in none of the cases of the raids in Amsterdam had there been a concrete charge with a suspected criminal offence, although the regular procedure in Holland is that people are first treated under the penal code and after that under the foreign law. O. van der Lee brought this up during a court case, but the judge argued that the authorities were entitled to arrest these people and that it was another thing how they presented this in the media. So basically the court ruled that there was sufficient reason to arrest these people, because under the foreign law and the law on identification, the police is only then allowed if there is reason to believe that people are illegally staying in Holland or that people are suspected of a criminal offence.

does that mean undocumented stay is sufficient reason to arrest? yes

do they say that themselves? yes

But looking at the facts, the police themselves bring forward there is little reason to believe that people are undocumented as well as being a possible criminal suspect. On the raids on the women in Theemsweg, the police presented a case from 2 October 2002 when a fight took place involving a drunken Bulgarian woman. Any other specific reasons on the arrests, two raids took place there on 23 September 2002 and on 13 January 2003, were not given. For the last raid of 13 January 2003, a chartered plane was already waiting at Schiphol Airport and within six hours the women were taken from the Theemsweg directly to the airport so that the authorities did not have to notify legal aid.

The raids in different cities let to questions in Parliament by the Green Left party. The answer from the Minister of Interior Affairs and the Minister of Integration to the question if the people who were deported were suspected of criminal offences was no. According to the Minister of Integration lawyers had free access to the immigrants. Furthermore the answers of the Minister are strange especially where it concerns the women who were arrested on the Theemsweg. The lack of clear explanation of the so called B9 regulations shows that police and public prosecution are not really interested in investigating possible cases of trafficking of women. The B9 regulation should be explained to illegal women who are arrested in situations where the possibility of trafficking is clear. The women should be offered a period of rethinking their position before filing a complaint about trafficking. Although the B9 regulation is not perfect and some women feel that this period of rethinking is “a waste of time” the police should explain the regulation and the possibility. In none of the raids the police explained the B9 procedure to the women.

According to the IND, 1,000 people were deported with charters in 2002, 600 of whom 600 came from Bulgaria. On Friday 21 February 2003 most of the national newspapers opened with the story that the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) had signed a contract with the Dutch army to use military planes and military airfields for the deportation of immigrants. A spokes person of the IND said that they immigrations service expected a rise in deportations (last year there were 25 charters and for this year 36 are planned and this year they planned that 18.000 people will be deported but for 2004 they already planned 24.000 deportees. According to the Ministry the present commercial airline companies who provide the charters (Transavia and Martinair) will not be able to full fill the demands of the immigration services. But it is not only the amount of deportations which let to the contract. The spokes person of the IND claimed also that it was meant as an image think, to make clear that deportations are not holiday trips. Immigrants and refugees knew this already, even the military police on Schiphol airport claimed that more deportations will lead to more insecurity for both refugees and police officials, because the situation is now already tense.