The Foreigners/Aliens Administration System (V.A.S.)
In the end of march 1993 the foreigners-services of the police (V.D.) in Eindhoven and The Hague were the first to start working with VAS. There has been worked at an automatized system for registration of foreigners for ten years. In the course of 1995 the system will be in use nation-wide.
What is VAS precisely ?
Since year and day foreigners in the Netherlands have been registrated at the different foreigners-services. This used to be done with registrationcards, but with the arrival of the computer, most VD's have an automatized registration. The Directorate Aliens of the Ministry of Justice keeps an exten- sive registration of all foreigners who applied for asylum. In addition the Marechaussee (constabulary, who guard the bor- ders) keeps an administration of foreigners not allowed to enter the country.
The set-up of VAS has been started in 1982, but the goals have changed a lot since then. In the early eighties the goal was to speed up the procedures and to relieve the work of the VD's. The VAS, as it is now, will also play a key-role in the arrest and expulsion of illegal foreigners. With the exchange of data about foreigners, as well as with police-controls, the VAS will play an important role.
How will VAS work?
The system itself is quite simple. Every VD will have its own system called DVAS, which is a part of the bigger one. In this DVAS extensive files are kept. In addition there will be a Central Register Foreigners (C.R.V.), which will be under the supervision of the Central Recherche Information-service (the CRI, the dutch equivalent of Scotland Yard). In this system a number of basic-data of all foreigners residing in the Nether- lands will be kept. Besides information about identity, infor- mation about status of residence and a possible pseudonym will be registered. Each foreigner will get a CRV-number and a remark of which VD (s)he resides under. VD's will have access to the system day and night. Moreover they can communicate with each other and with the Ministry of Justice to request and exchange information. Another important part didn't get press-exposure, oddly enough. Next to personal data the VAS will also have a picture of the foreigner, equally accessible. In a different system, called VISAGE/VRD, photos with 'optimal colour-quality' are kept. They are linked to VAS through another number.
What are the possibilities of VAS?
To begin with VAS will be a very large card-index-system, in this case an electronic one. Because the information is filed everywhere in the same way the exchange of data is very easy. Not only within the system but also with other systems. Besides that, it is possible with VAS to get information needed in a procedure which a foreigner is in, a sort of standard form system. Last but not least, the system makes it possible to sort out information in different categories. So VAS can make a print-out of all foreigners above the age of 15, all foreigners who didn't report to the VD or of all Turkish people in the Netherlands.
What kind of role will VAS play?
The VAS will play a major role in the exclusion of illegal foreigners of services like social security, rentsubsidie etc.. In the future civil servants will have to check the status of every foreigner who applies for a service. The legal arrangement for this still has to be made, largely. These controls of foreigners will be done via the Municipal Basic Administration (G.B.A.). After pressure from parliament space will be created in this system to differentiate between 9 different residence permits. VAS will be the supplier of this system. The GBA is such a gigantic project that it will take some time before it is wholly introduced. Until that time the VD's will have to request information about status of resi- dence from the CRV-system.
The exchange of information is not limited between the VAS and (semi-)governmentservices. The exchange will also work the other way round. The VD can, for example, check with the Social Security Service if someone is getting unemployment benefit. This can have an effect on the residence permit, which is in some case only given for work. The VAS will also be an important instrument in streetcontrols. The data-bases of the CRV will be freely accessible to all policeforces, so that controls on the basis of the new Identification Bill can be quickly executed. The argumentation is that foreigners won't get into the situation any more, where they are arrested and held for a day to check their residence permit. Against this apparent advantage one can put the immanent danger of increasing controls. It will be very simple to check somebo- dy's status when they stop a person, who looks like a foreigner. The problems which this causes are clear, in prac- tice black people will be checked. For black people of Dutch nationality, a strange situation will arise. Since they are no foreigners, they are not registered in VAS, so they will have to prove that they are of Dutch nationality, a reversal of burden of evidence. Besides the new law on identification, VAS will be the coping-stone of the investigation and arrest of illegal foreigners. (S)He who can't identify him/herself, isn't registered in VAS, or is registered as illegal, will be removed.
Illegal foreigners are already excluded from getting a social- fiscal number, since the first of january 1992. The sofi- number is used for the exchange of information between differ- ent civil services. For example the exchange between the Social Security Service and the Tax-services, which showed high numbers of fraud. In which way the sofi-number will play a part for illegals is not yet clear. Because they don't have one, they are effectively excluded from services where it is a condition to have one, like work and social security. Because of the controls VAS provides, it seems a bit exaggerated. In the review of the Aliens Act the use of the sofi-number is definitely arranged. If this law is applied the sofi-number will be used as a referencenumber in VAS. It would be used to check spelling and double registration.
At the moment there is no real legal basis for the systematic linking of VAS to other systems. The new Aliens Act- (01.01.1994) will have to provide this, with the changing of article 48. If and how this article will be used, and if it is enough to operate VAS on, still has to be tested (by the court). There has been strong criticism, from different sides and groups, to the present changes, e.g. on the basis of international treaties. The new article 48 will give the Ministry the power to link-up different systems to VAS. In any case there is little warrant of privacy for foreigners in this law.
What are the consequences?
The consequences of VAS not only include a further marginalisation of illegals, but also stronger control of all foreigners. Although a major part of the illegal people, already live a forced life in, literarily, illegality, they will be totally excluded from society. A situation will be created where a large group of people will disappear in to the margin of society. Combined with the Identification Bill the chance that they will be arrested is raised.
Civil servants won't be obliged to report illegals, but they can always take the initiative, like every citizen. The risk is that VAS will stimulate this. In the new article 48 is suggested that some services will have to report to the VD 'in the importance of abiding the Aliens Act'. They don't have to report direct, but indirectly, which still can have a great impact on foreigners.
But foreigners with a residence permit will also notice the changes. Because of the many different statuses of residence it is often unclear who is entitled to what. Can a displaced Yugoslav work or not? Will a 'tolerated' Somali get childsup- port, or not? Can a studying Czech work?
The VAS won't have the answers, but through the linking of systems the VD will be aware sooner if someone does something (s)he's not allowed. In addition to that the increasing con- trols will promote racism. Each civil servant and police officer has to judge on the basis of appearance to check somebody. It is obvious that black people will be the victim of this. For Dutch people of foreign origin a strange situ- ation will be created. They are registered in VAS, but who's to tell if they are Dutch or illegally residing. In practice they will have to prove their innocence. This reversal of burden of proof will also be for those whose status has been changed or if the data are wrong. Taking into account the difficulties the VD's have in the processing of new informa- tion, a lot of problems will arise.