A Dutch campaigner and local politician is taking the border police force KMar to court on Wednesday over an ethnic profiling case dating back to 2018, which could have EU-wide implications.
Mpanzu Bamenga was singled out for special questioning at passport control at Eindhoven airport after returning from Rome where he had attended a conference. Dressed in a suit, he was walking fast, other indicators, it later transpired, for resembling a ‘Nigerian money smuggler’.
When he asked why he had been pulled over Bamenga was told that they were looking for criminals and refugees. He thought he looked like someone the police were looking for, but when a another black man and woman with children were also taken out of the queue, he realized it was a clear case of ethnic profiling.
‘It made me angry,’ he told RTL Nieuws. ‘Ethnic profiling is not about me personally, it affects many people.’
Bamenga, a councillor in Eindhoven on behalf of D66, made a formal complaint about the incident. But on Wednesday he is taking it further, by asking the courts to draw the line and ban ethnic profiling altogether.
The case is supported by Amnesty International, Control Alt Delete, discrimination register RADAR, human rights lawyers (NJCM) and a pilot of Surinamese origin.
Against the law
‘There is a lot at stake,’ said Dionne Abdoelhafiezkhan, of Control Alt Delete. ‘We know that not only KMar but also the police and other law enforcement agencies work with ethnically loaded risk profiles. We hope that the judge will quickly put an end to this form of discrimination.’
KMar said in a statement that they do not carry out ethnic profiling but do use predictive profiling, and that someone can be selected for checks based on ‘different indicators, knowledge and experience, and information (such as trends or other incidents).’
Ethnicity, the police said, can be a relevant indicator in this.
Human rights lawyer Jelle Klaas, writing for the EU Observer, said that the Dutch Supreme Court, has previously ruled that ethnicity may play a role in risk profiles, unless it becomes a decisive element.
‘Our argument is that the use of ethnicity or a proxy such as “perceived nationality” (e.g. Nigerian) in a risk-profile results in discrimination, because it will always be a decisive element for the selection of a person,’ Klaas said.
‘These border controls are inconsistent with the EU’s fundamental values of equality and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.’
Klaas said he believes the case can inspire and support litigation on ethnic profiling in other EU member states as well.
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