Flying while black

Mpanzu Bamenga was singled out for a security check and took it to Parliamant. Surprisingly, the Minister of Justice admits that border control officials use race as a ground for stopping people. 

maandag 4 juni 2018

What happened
Mpanzu Bamenga, a former council member for the city of Eindhoven, returned home from a visit to Rome last April 30th. He was singled out for an extra check, like two other people of color. Other people were able to freely walk through. While waiting to be checked, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (responsible for border control) explained to Bamenga that it's the law and that this way of working helps stopping terrorists and criminals. 

Mpanzu Bamenga, who was in Rome to give a lecture on freedom, sent out a facebook post and a tweet to let the world know what just had happened. The issue was picked up by a local newspaper, a local broadcaster and national radio. Shortly after, MP Salima Belhaj raised the issue in the Dutch Parliament. Belhaj asked the Minister of Defence if he agrees that someone's skin color can never be a reason for a check. This week the Minister answered: "Profiling is an important tool for the Marechaussee. [..] The profiles are based on historical experiences and figures, information, intelligence and risk indicators. [..] The appearance (including ethnicity) can be relevant here, but always as part of other objective indicators or information."

Racial profiling
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has published extensively on racial profiling. ECRI defines racial profiling as: "The use by the police, with no objective and reasonable justification, of grounds such as race, color, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin in control, surveillance or investigation activities." Combine the answer from the Minister of Justice with the European definition of racial profiling and the conclusion is clear: The minister acknowledges that the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee is conducting racial profiling. 

The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee is encouraging this policy in Europe through the Behavior Detection Studygroup (BDSG) of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC). The minister: "The methods used by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee are an example to our partners".

Stand up for freedom
Mpanzu Bamenga is in contact with the Marechaussee and is planning to file a complaint. He states: "the principle of non-discrimination is a fundamental value and the starting point of our democracy. Racial profiling is therefore unacceptable. It's a threat to our freedom and democracy. It has no place in a diverse and inclusive society. We need to stand up against this injustice, because every time we stay silent and don't resist when freedom is at risk, we allow the threat towards all we hold dear to grow. In the name of freedom and our democracy, we should not allow this to happen. I call upon the Marechaussee to explain the difference, according to them, why their profiling policy does not qualify as racial profiling. This needs to be clarified so that we can have an open and democratic debate about it."


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