At least 2,090 children were seized by the Dutch government during the tax benefits scandal that involved some 30,000 duped families unrightfully accused of tax fraud.
The figure went up from 1,675 reported in May of 2022 and included custodial placements in 2021. The number was already a correction upward from 1,115 in October of 2021.
The Dutch Bureau of Statistics (CBS) calculated at the direction of the Ministry of Justice that since 2015, in total some 70,000 children and roughly 30,000 parents have been negatively affected by the scandal because they were incorrectly accused of unlawfully benefiting from childcare payments.
The financial punishments that resulted from the allegations drove thousands of families into poverty resulting in divorces, out-of-house placements, and even suicides.
The agency, however, could not establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that all of the custody placements directly resulted from the financial repercussions the parents met with, as it claimed it did not have access to all necessary files.
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However, all instances concerned children whose parents had been victimized.
Blame it on the algo
Thousands of families, often of ethnic minorities normally not known for their dexterity in finding their way through the bureaucratic mishmash of the Dutch tax service regulations, were driven into poverty — and as a result, lost their children to childcare institutions.
When the scam came to light after a parliamentary report in 2019, Dutch tax authorities revealed they had relied on a self-learning AI-driven algorithm to spot potential fraudulent childcare benefits applicants in an early stage.
And it was the AI bot that went totally berserk, they said. However, as it turned out, the parameters fed into the algorithm system were no good either. They were extremely discriminatory and stigmatizing in nature. People of low income or foreign descent were all labeled suspicious — a severe infringement of internationally agreed data vetting standards.
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Investigators also found several other grave misconducts such as institutional biases and hiding or representing the facts for lawmakers misleadingly.
But not everybody bought the fiscal authorities’ excuse and suspected there was willful intent at play.
“P.s. Toeslagenaffaire [benefits scandal] did not happen because of “algorithms” ruining 1000s of dutch lives, even though they make people believe that. There were actually humans, tax inspectors who had joy in ruining lives, they even made jokes and poems about ‘Taking Away day’ aka afpakjesdag,” independent journalist Lonneke Engel commented on Twitter.
“Exhibit C: Dutch FOIA requests (“WOB verzoek”) show that the Dutch intelligence agency NCTV put aside people’s constitutional rights + worked together with the Ministry of Health (VWS)+(social) media to influence behavior and control people during Covid,” Engel added.
Promise to do better
As a result, the investigation promised to better its life by promising to delete their files on citizens of dual nationalities. On top of that, the government imposed a €2.75 million fine on the tax administration for gross negligence and unlawful conduct.
So effectively, one governmental agency promises it will scoop €2.75 million out of the exchequer and donate it to another governmental agency who deposits it into the same treasury.
Eventually, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Rutte III cabinet tripped over the matter and went demissionary for a traipsing 225-days-lasting reformation period.
During that 225-day period, the outgoing administration was able to fast track some of the most unpopular and far-reaching, civil rights-infringing measures imaginable bypassing the House of Representatives, only to regroup with the same coalition parties and the same puppets in place for another 4-year term to form the new Rutte IV cabinet.
A motion on Sept. 15, 2022 in the House to bring the children back home as soon as possible was rejected by the same coalition partners.