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Publication of the Law Clinic report on undocumented Surinamese and the colonial past

Eva Rieter

27 Dec 2022

First Clinic report published



This brief note is to flag the publication of a Clinic research report. Obviously not all clinic  deliverables will be published. They are often meant for internal use by the commissioning organisation. But now Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP), one of last year’s commissioning organisations, has decided to publish the report that is the result of the research of five Clinic students. This means that we can also publish the report on the Clinic’s site. This gives you one example of the considerable work that has been done last year within the Clinic.


The project of undocumented Surinamese and the colonial past


The research concerns the situation of those people born in Suriname who lost their Dutch nationality in 1975 and who are currently living in the Netherlands undocumented, without any longer being legally recognized as Dutch citizens. They do not have legal access on the same conditions as former nationals who, different from them, were born in the Netherlands and not in Suriname. This triggered this research by the Radboud Law Clinic, commissioned by the (PILP). The question was whether the distinction made in Dutch regulations on the right to reside in the Netherlands, between former Dutch citizens who were born in the European part of the Netherlands and former citizens who were born in the Surinamese part, is discriminatory.

For this project two Dutch, two French and one Canadian/British student explored the  regulations in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the UK with regard to former citizens, in light of the colonial past. Their findings on these regulations, in their historical setting, were assessed against the international and European law framework on  non-discrimination.  The report concludes that the apparent incompatibility with article 26 ICCPR, articles 1 and 5 ICERD, article 1 of Protocol 12 ECHR and of article 14 read in conjunction  with article 8 ECHR, is a structural one that applies to all former Dutch citizens who were born in former colonies.  This incompatibility also appears to contain a message that is not lost on current Surinamese Dutch citizens and other citizens with ties to countries that have been colonised.

While in practice the actual group of former citizens with such ties who are present in the Netherlands undocumented, does not appear to be very large, the report suggests that the persons concerned should not have to be put through a case by case approach. Instead a practical as well as symbolic measure is needed to regularize their presence in the Netherlands. This would also be in line with recent approaches of Belgium and France, and seemingly in a different context also those of Portugal and Spain, as well as with the recommendations by UN experts.

The report played a role in the  actions developed by the Regenboog Groep and specific lawyers.  Under the wings of PILP the Clinic students joined  in on conversations with people from the Regenboog group (see e.g., lawyers, scholars, etc. They presented their preliminary findings, which were used in advocacy. 

We are very much looking forward to the presentations of the reports of the second cohort, who are  working on very interesting projects.  They will do so  academically on February 17th and to ‘their’ organisations on a date separately agreed with them.  We are also looking forward to continuing activities with the clinic community beyond that date, such as  meeting with human rights alumni, as well as to preparing for the next round in the Fall of 2023!

RLC Undocumented and colonial context 22 December 2022
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