Column | IND detained a ‘big mistake’ with highly qualified migrants

There is an urgent need for: an Indian software expert, a Turkish concrete worker, an Argentine carpenter or a South African telecommunications specialist. Many Dutch companies are looking for talent abroad because they can not find staff in the Netherlands.

Highly qualified migrants from outside the EU can start working if they have a residence permit. This is provided by IND, the Danish Immigration and Naturalization Agency. For years, the same service used a controversial method to combat residence permit fraud: It collected the nationalities of the directors of the company that wanted to hire highly educated migrants. IND officials assumed that companies with non-Western management commit fraud relatively often with residence permits. However, ethnic profiling is prohibited under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

That IND has for years registered the background for these corporate boards as a supplement to the risk model used by the service is evident from documents published by the research collective Lighthouse Reports and the radio program Human / VPRO. argos in connection with NRC interrogate through the Public Access to Information Act. And from the same documents it appears that IND was in the stomach with this method.

He did not work.

Also read: Accusations of ethnic profiling are not new

Recognized judge

How can the South African telecommunications specialist and the Indian software expert get started in the Netherlands? Entrepreneurs who want to hire highly qualified migrants need the IND stamp ‘recognized sponsor’. Every year, 1,400 Dutch companies apply for this.

The government checks whether your business is legitimate and financially sound. It must guarantee that the highly educated migrant receives a market annual salary of at least 55,000 euros gross. The idea is that this income requirement prevents abuse.

This system is ‘open and fast’ according to IND. For example, it makes no demands on the education of the highly educated migrants, and people can often start working in the Netherlands within a few days. Most of them come from India, China and Turkey.

IND checks the individual applications of highly educated migrants through the recognized sponsorship scheme – around ten thousand a year. In addition, annual inspections are carried out in collaboration with the Danish Working Environment Authority at companies that have been designated as recognized sponsors. The inspectors check whether such a company fulfills the obligations and examine the payroll administration.

Such controls can have far-reaching consequences. If an international employee earns too little in one month, the residence permit can already be withdrawn. A difference of a few dozen dollars can have major consequences, says lawyer Pieter Krop, who specializes in labor immigration law. “Sometimes a snowball effect occurs, and the partner and the children also lose their right of residence because they have a dependent status. Due to an administrative error by an employer, the whole family must leave the country within 28 days. ”

Abuse also occurs, inspectors discover, such as at the restaurant planning to bring a kitchen assistant to Holland as a highly educated migrant. The kitchen workers’ usual salary does not meet the income requirement.

Major fraud cases are also known: In 2012, IND wound up a company without real economic activity. Between 2006 and 2011, more than three hundred Chinese worked for this ‘ghost company’. They built up a fictional employment history to get a permanent residence permit and to be able to come to Holland with their families.

Also read: After all, were they profiled?

The risk model

The people who enforce the rules for migration of knowledge workers at IND have used the risk model for recognized judges since 2014. Companies get an automatic score based on characteristics such as number of employees, date of establishment, ownership of own website or building and the industry the company is active in. in.

There is another category ‘other indicators’. This records the origin of the entire company board in several categories: Dutch, Western, non-Western or a combination. IND retrieves this data from the Chamber of Commerce’s database, where drivers must also state their place of birth.

Does a Dutch company with many Chinese or Chilean board members cheat more often with residence permits than a company with only people born in Europe? At IND, they mean it.

In confidential documents from 2011, officials write: “Certain regions of the world have a different way of dealing with legal provisions. As a result, drivers from a particular country of birth are more likely to break the rules. “

lack of data

IND has struggled with risk scoring for a long time. The system previously used by the public authority, ORKA, is “unfounded,” the head of the enforcement department said in a report on July 6, 2011. He wants to develop a new system of documented statistics.

However, IND is struggling with ‘data scarcity’, the report warns: “First problem: there are too few companies that have committed fraud in the past.” In order to find characteristics of fraud via a system, IND must first be able to feed such a system with examples of real fraudsters.

According to the report, a lot of research has been done on Chinese companies in the past. As a result, they more often end up on the fraud list and weigh more heavily in determining the indicators of the risk model.

For example, the nationality of directors appears as an “explanatory variable”. Although these data do not end up directly in the risk model, they can be consulted by IND officials. It is an additional “risk indicator” – a function to manually “optimize” the automatic scoring. This is the basis of the recognized reference risk model.

A big mistake

When Glenn de Randamie is again arrested near Zwolle on May 30, 2016 in his white Mitsubishi Outlander, he knows for sure: he is a victim of ethnic profiling. Police find it suspicious in advance that a man with dark skin is driving in a brand new car. A “big mistake in Dutch society”, writes Glenn, alias rapper Typhoon, on Instagram. He makes the national press with it.

In 2017, IND’s legal department compared Typhoon’s experiences with IND’s risk model. “This method actually involves ethnic profiling, leading to discriminatory treatment of people, solely on the basis of origin, while there is no reasonable justification.” The lawyers advise to ‘interrupt and set the model’ and to remove the risk profiles.

Nothing happens with this advice. Lack of prioritization, says IND afterwards.

That priority comes when the Supplementary Case with the Tax Administration breaks out in 2019. The tax authorities used foreign origin as a risk factor and kept blacklists of citizens. The affair confronts government services with the consequences of their own prejudices and risk models built on them.

IND will revise its own working method again in April 2021. The system is rattling, writes the privacy adviser. “There is no ownership, no maintenance and no clear purpose: the model is built for supervision, but is also used in the decision-making process. Elements of ethnic profiling are still available. “

The indicators or risk scores have never been validated or evaluated, according to the Wob documents. “It will cause problems in the event of a possible lawsuit,” employees fear.

Moreover, the predictive power of the risk model is ‘marginal’. You might as well check any company for fraud.

On 12 April 2021, Renske Leijten (SP) and Don Ceder (ChristenUnie) will ask parliamentary questions on discriminatory algorithms and the use of ‘incorrect personal data’ by public services. They are addressed to the Ministry of the Interior, which is asking the Ministry of Justice and Security (which includes IND) for input. IND replies that an investigation will be launched.

In fact, it has long been known that the risk model for recognized judges must disappear. At the end of April 2021, IND employees warn that “there is a risk of ethnic profiling” and that “this model has had its time”. After a temporary stop in May 2021, the plug will be removed from the system in January 2022.

The picture counts

That it took years to abolish a shocking risk model is due to lack of urgency, IND informs NRC on request. But internal e-mail exchanges show that the state administration does not want to be mentioned either. An employee writes, “How can we adjust it so that there is no risk of image damage to IND?”

There is “no good story” to explain to the outside world why the system was turned off, says IND’s privacy manager. “We want to work more data-driven (…). This should be based on trust and care. It can be removed by drawing attention to an outdated data model that is no longer used.”

A new risk model for highly educated migrants is already in place. It should have worked by the end of 2021, but TNO’s AI Oversight Lab is still investigating the “sensitive properties” system. The aim is “to increase transparency and bias (prejudice) in algorithms ”.

The new method will take effect this year, IND hopes. Until then, the service does not use a predictable risk model to be on the safe side.

Argos will use a broadcast on this topic on Saturday, May 7: NPO Radio 1 p.m. 14.00

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