“It happened here,” says Babah Tarawally in front of a pub in Utrecht. “The doorman said that I was not allowed in because I am black. That has happened to me before,” said the journalist and writer. “But this time I decided to report it.”
Tarawally went to a hotline against discrimination, a so-called anti-discrimination facility (ADV). There are more than twenty such foundations throughout the country where victims of discrimination can report for support. This often leads to the accused party being held accountable, and sometimes it leads to a case before the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights.
In recent years, more money has been made available for the ADVs: since 2021, the cabinet has allocated almost 7 million euros extra for them. But that money often does not reach the agencies. And they are still not functioning properly, according to a report that was published this week on behalf of Minister Hanke Bruins Slot (CDA) of the Interior. Something has to change, the minister tells Nieuwsuur: “The name recognition of the anti-discrimination facilities must be better. The tasks are not in order and the financing must be better guaranteed.”
According to the report, the agencies are now ‘insufficiently visible’ and funding depends too much on the political color of municipalities. The situation is dire, says chairman Stefano Frans of the association of ADVs: “We lack money to function properly. I hear from agencies that they have too little capacity, but do not have a budget to hire people.”
Municipalities make different choices
A problem for the agencies is that municipalities ultimately determine how much money they spend on it. They receive 77 cents per inhabitant from the government to spend on the ADV. But only 16 percent of all municipalities also spend that full amount, says the national association of anti-discrimination facilities. The municipalities are not obliged to actually spend the money on the ADVs.
Nieuwsuur asked eleven municipalities in a random sample why they do not spend the money or not all of it on the agencies. In a response, the municipality of Oss, for example, says it wants to keep room for local initiatives. Capelle aan den IJssel says to spend the money on quality of life, participation and inclusion. And in Emmen, the municipality does not spend the extra money from the cabinet at all, according to its own words due to changes in bureaucrats and limited time and capacity.
Discrimination also occurs outside the cities, as these friends in Heerlen notice:
Left-wing parties in the House of Representatives believe that municipalities should be obliged to spend the money on ADVs. “The money is now spent by many municipalities on lampposts, or on absorbing cuts,” says Member of Parliament Songül Mutluer (PvdA). “That’s too crazy for words.” But government party VVD believes that municipalities should have the freedom to use the money as they see fit. “I agree with many in the municipality who say: it cannot be the case that we are pushed down our throats exactly what we should do,” said Member of Parliament Zohair El Yassini.
Also in the Limburg municipality of Stein, about 10 thousand euros from The Hague do not go to the regional anti-discrimination facility. Alderman Joep Ummels will leave the money on the shelf for the time being. “I have not yet seen a good plan from the ADV. If that plan does come up, I am willing to spend the money on it. It is not a matter of principle for me.”
Less discrimination in Stein?
Particularly outside the major cities, a large part of the money from the municipalities does not go to the agencies. This does not surprise alderman Ummels: “In a slightly more rural area, the risk of discrimination is somewhat lower. In that sense, it is less prominent. I think that could be an explanation why the expenditure is somewhat lower here.”
But chairman of the ADVs Stefano Frans wonders: “Because as a gay boy can you easily come out there? Can you easily come out for yourself as a transgender? Can you find a safe home there as a refugee? I put my question marks.”
Babah Tarawally, who was refused at the door in Utrecht, is in any case happy that he reported. He came into contact with the owner of the catering business via the ADV, who was unable to reach Nieuwsuur despite repeated attempts. It was a good conversation, says Tarawally. “And something has changed, black people do come in here now.”
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