Dutch PM Rutte quits over welfare scandal and racial profiling

Around 10,000 families, some of whom were racially profiled, were forced to repay tens of thousands of euros of subsidies

Mark Rutte
Mark Rutte

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced the resignation of his government, after a parliamentary inquiry last month found bureaucrats at the tax service had wrongly accused families of fraud. 

Rutte, who heads the liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, said he was accepting responsibility for years of mismanagement of childcare subsidies, which wrongfully drove thousands of families to financial ruin. 

His government had four months left to run, and his Cabinet will remain in place in a caretaker capacity to manage the coronavirus crisis, with an election already due on March 17. 

“The rule of law must protect its citizens from an all-powerful government, and here that’s gone terribly wrong,” Rutte told reporters yesterday. 

The inquiry report found that approximately 10,000 families had been forced to repay tens of thousands of euros of subsidies, in some cases leading to unemployment, bankruptcies and divorces, in what it called an “unprecedented injustice”. 

Rutte said that the government will compensate the parents for their loss and that all documents in the future will be open to the public. 

With some parents racially profiled during the investigation, the affair underscored criticisms of the Dutch state under Rutte, including an addiction to frugality and a failure to tackle systemic racism. 

Orlando Kadir, a lawyer representing about 600 families, told Dutch radio people had been targeted “as a result of ethnic profiling by bureaucrats who picked out their foreign-looking names”. 

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