Letter from 2 ministers, August 2022
Images of the original letter (written in Dutch) can be found here:
Date_____August 23, 2022
Concerning_____Your letter dated May 27, 2022 regarding data link between ‘crime’ and ‘origin’
Dear Sirs Saadane, Martijn and Baran,
On May 27, 2022, you sent me and the Ministers of Justice and Security (J&V) and the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) a letter about the way in which Dutch government organisations conduct research into, pursue policy on, and publicly communicate about crime figures in combination with the country of origin. Also on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Security (J&V) I am responding to your letter.
In your letter you address many aspects of crime figures in combination with the country of origin. In 2019 and 2021, you also expressed your concerns about this to the then ministers of SZW, J&V and BZK. In 2021 you spoke with civil servants and my predecessor, Minister Koolmees, and in 2022 with the Director-General of Social Security and Integration. On 28 April 2021, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW), also on behalf of the Ministers of Justice and Security and the Interior and Kingdom Relations, responded extensively in writing and explained the various aspects of government policy on crime figures in combination with the country of origin. Your concerns and concerns have been taken very seriously and have been extensively addressed.
Analysis of crime figures and policy
The aforementioned letter of 28 April 2021 explained in detail why aspects such as the country of origin can be included in the analysis of crime figures and which policy objectives are served by this.
When reducing crime, it is important to identify relevant factors and groups, so that a targeted and effective policy can be pursued. This includes factors such as gender, multi-problems in families, upbringing, behavioural problems, early school leaving, no prospects on the labor market, degree of urbanisation, but also specific countries of origin, which correlate with a relatively larger representation in crime. It is of course also important to look thoroughly at the underlying causes.
For example, the over-representation disappears for some of the ‘origin groups’ after correction for background characteristics, but not for all groups [footnote 1: Kamerstukken II, 2020–2021, 35 570 VI, no. 107]. In both cases, it is important to formulate policy in consultation with (representatives of) the groups involved that aims to remove the breeding ground for crime. Incidentally, this is not only about perpetrators, but also explicitly about reducing an increased chance of victimisation in specific offences. An example of this is the Extortion Confidential Line [footnote 2: Parliamentary Documents II, 2010–2011, 29 911, no. 48], which was brought to the attention of various groups with a migration background after its establishment.
Data can also lead to further research if background characteristics such as education, age, gender and work experience cannot explain the less favourable position of people of a certain origin. For example, the Minister of Justice and Security will conduct research into the increasing over-representation of persons with a (non-Western) migration background in subsequent phases of the criminal justice chain [footnote 3: Parliamentary Papers II, 2020–2021, 35 570 VI, no. 107]. The research will be aimed at answering the question: What causes the scientifically established over-representation as described in the letter to parliament to increase, especially in later phases of the criminal justice chain? The results of the study may lead to correcting policies in the criminal justice chain and further developing the social and integration policies of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. This research would not have been initiated if the crime data had not been linked to origin. This study is expected to start in 2022.
Risk of stigmatisation
In the judgments of international organisations cited by you, explicit reference is made to the possible stigmatising effects that the publication of data broken down by origin can have.
I understand your concerns about the possible stigmatising effects of these data. This government stands for a society in which everyone, within the boundaries of the democratic legal order, can visibly be themselves [footnote 4: Coalition agreement ‘ Looking at each other, looking forward to the future ‘ , https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/publicaties /2022/01/10/coalition agreement-overlooking-to-each-other-looking-forward-to-the-future] and strives for equal opportunities for everyone [footnote 5: Among other things: Parliamentary Papers II, 2021–2022, 35 925 XV, Adoption of the budget statement of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (XV) for the year 2022 and Parliamentary Papers II, 32 824, no. 357, letter dated 5 April 2022 on the concept of integration]. I endorse what was included in the letter of April 28, 2021 by the then ministers of SZW, J&V and BZK. The collection of data, including data on crime, is indispensable for, as indicated above, reducing crime, but also for striving for equal opportunities and combating discrimination and racism and is anchored in law [footnote 6: https: //www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/over-ons/organisatie]. In addition, we are well aware that this data link must be covered by safeguards and that disclosure requires careful communication.
The collection of data, and the consideration of whether this data is broken down by origin, are surrounded by many guarantees by Statistics Netherlands, as can be read on their website, including in the CBS assessment framework Our migration and integration statistics [footnote 7: https ://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/longread/diversen/2021/cbs-afwegingskader-migration-en-integratiestatistieken]. In addition to the Advisory Council and six user councils, Statistics Netherlands recently set up an internal committee that also assesses whether it is justified to classify statistics by origin. If it is justified to classify by origin, the clusters and terms should take into account informational and performative requirements. Performative requirements relate to: a. have as little exclusive effect as possible; b. not evoke negative associations; c. coordinate and not subordinate as much as possible. This can be read in chapter 3 of the aforementioned assessment framework [footnote 8: https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/longread/diversen/2021/cbs-afwegingskader-migration-en-integrationstatistieken].
In his letter of April 28, 2021, the former Minister of Social Affairs and Employment indicated his intention “ to combine descriptive insights as much as possible with analyses that provide insight into the factors that explain a — possible — over- or under-representation of groups in crime”. For example, Chapter 8 of the 2020 Annual Integration Report [footnote 9: https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/publicatie/2020/46/jaarrapport-integration-2020] includes an extensive explanatory analysis. Classifying data according to origin can therefore also contribute to debunking stereotypes, if, for example, it turns out that the over-representation of certain ethnic groups can be traced back to generic background characteristics in whole or in part.
Finally, I note that the way of presenting figures and reports, in combination with origin and the words used, are very important. At the beginning of this year, Statistics Netherlands decided to classify the population by origin differently [footnote 10: https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/longread/statistic-trends/2022/nieuwe-deling-population-naar-herkomst ].
In response to questions about this, I have indicated to the House of Representatives that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment is conducting an exploratory study into whether the CBS terminology should be adopted. I will share the results of that exploration with the House of Representatives.
Also on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Security,
The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment,
C.E.G. van Gennip