The Surinamese were outraged, with Wopke Hoekstra and Keke Henke on the carpet.
Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra (CTA) should take the matter to the Dutch Data Protection Authority. A digital system for assessing visa applications could turn out to be discriminatory. Computers use algorithms to decide whether the authorities should assess the visa application lightly or more seriously.
The privacy watchdog suspects it’s about ‘profile software’, meaning – the overcharge issue is still fresh in their minds – out of the question. In Suriname in particular, there have been complaints about the way Foreign Affairs handles visa applications. ‘It’s like you’re talking to a robot,’ says one Suriname visa applicant today NRCThe newspaper that brought the issue.
This is a new ‘scandal’ in the State Department. Half a year ago, a report was published about coarse and racist language in the caves of the department, and ministers Hoekstra and Liesje Schreinmacher (VVD), and general secretary Paul Huyts, had to bend over backwards to say what they saw. Uncivilized customs destroy official attributes root and branch by ‘structural reinforcement’.
Apparently, the computers employed by the ministry in Dubai are also racist because they focus on the nationality, gender, age of the applicant and the place of visa application. It is very certain: if you send your digital application in Paramaribo, you will not always count on preferential treatment.
The right to claim to be here
But wait a minute. Can a country no longer decide who it lets in for work, vacations, family visits or sporting events? Can non-Europeans claim to be here?
Anyone who has needed a visa for India, Pakistan, Russia, Iraq, Syria or other countries with strict entry restrictions knows what it’s like. Do they suspect you are a criminal? Even in the United States, you always feel relieved when you satisfactorily answer the probing questions of the man or woman behind the counter and get a stamp in your passport. But it’s totally understandable that they want to know who they’re bringing.
Computer says no
The discriminatory effect of computer programs concerns the Dutch Data Protection Authority. Dutch privacy law makes no distinction between residents and non-residents. This law does not apply in Suriname (and other non-EU countries wishing to travel to Schiphol), so Surinamese cannot claim it directly. But Dutch law applies in The Hague, where decision-making authorities assess visa applications. If they are instructed by the computer to undergo an additional assessment instead of the normal assessment, the chances of the application being rejected and the visa being refused increases. In short: Computer says no.
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