Dutch police have been visiting the homes of people critical of asylum centres on Twitter, urging them to delete posts.
It was thus on a Monday, in the town of Sliedrecht, that Mark Jongeneel (28) got a very disturbing phone call. His mother was on the line, worried that two policemen were looking for him, but would not say why. As Jongeneel told the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, the police came to his office and told him: “You tweet too much. We have orders to ask you to watch your tone. Your tweets may seem seditious.”
In Sliedrecht there had been a citizen meeting about a refugee center in the region. At the end, Jongeneel had posted a few tweets. One said: “The College of #Sliedrecht comes with a proposal to take 250 refugees over the next two years. What a bad idea! “Earlier he had also tweeted:” Should we let this happen?! ”
In recent months, police have visited the homes of many more people that criticised the plans for asylum centres. In October 2015, in Leeuwarden about twenty opponents of the programs received police visits at home. It happened in Enschede, and in some places in the Brabant, where, according to the Dutch media, people who had been critical of the arrival of refugees and ran a page on social media on the topic were told to stop.
A spokesman for the national police acknowledged to Handelsblad that there are ten intelligence units of “digital detectives” monitoring in real time Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and looking for posts that go “too far”.
Citizens have even complained that it starts sounding as if the Netherlands were on the way to become “a police state.”
On the other hand, as the Netherlands toughened its stance on newcomers in recent years, Dutch policy toward asylum-seekers and immigrants has been criticized by NGOs and the United Nations as overly strict.
In an August 2015 report, the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told the Dutch they should meet migrants’ basic needs unconditionally.
The EU’s leading human rights forum, the 47-nation Council of Europe admonished the Netherlands in 2014 for placing asylum seekers in administrative detention and leaving many “irregular immigrants” in legal limbo and destitution.
Europe’s worst migrant and refugee crisis since World War Two has led to a surge in support for far right Dutch leader Geert Wilders, who wants to close the borders.
In November last year, the Dutch high court upheld a government policy of withholding food and shelter to rejected asylum-seekers who refuse to be repatriated, giving legal backing to one of Europe’s toughest immigration policies.
The Raad van State or Council of State, which reviews the legality of government decisions, found that the new policy of conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte does not contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.
A rejected asylum seeker does not have the right to appeal to the European Social Charter, it said.
The Dutch government “has the right, when providing shelter in so-called locations of limited freedom, to require failed asylum-seekers to cooperate with their departure from the Netherlands,” a summary of the ruling said.
The Netherlands is the eighth-largest destination for asylum seekers in the European Union.