The national police force of the Netherlands admitted trying to cut a deal with the country’s largest newspaper, which claimed to have been offered leads and exclusive stories if they dropped a freedom of information request on the number of asylum seekers involved in crime.
However, the police denied this amounted to a cover-up, claiming they wanted the figures to remain secret as they could be “misleading” to the public. They statistics have still not been published.
“Unfortunately, this approach makes it look like police seek to ignore facts that are socially sensitive. Nothing is less true”, police chief executive Erik Akerboom said in a statement this Monday.
Mr. Akerboom and the force was responding to an article in De Telegraaf, published over the weekend, revealing the underhand deal proposed to them by police.
“Initially, the police had denied to this newspaper that they even collected data on crime among foreigners seeking asylum”, the paper explained, claiming the police then change their reason to “keep the figures under the hat” as the subject “remains taboo”.
The paper said they filed the freedom of information request as they wanted to investigate the cause of a spike in pick-pocketing and petty crime.
The police told them if they did not publish data on asylum seeker’s involvement, “the editors would in return get other news on addressing example pickpockets from safe countries and failed asylum seekers…”
“As icing on the cake we would also get an ‘exclusive interview’ with chief Erik Akerboom about the issue”, they added.
“We will inform De Telegraaf that we will review the [freedom of information] request again”, Mr. Akerboon said, insisting the police “regretted that the newspaper had the impression we wanted to keep them from publishing” and that they had never wanted “to impose silence”.
De Telegraaf pointed out that similar statistics were available in neighbouring Germany, where they had revealed asylum seekers to be disproportionately involved in crime.
Police forces in a number of European nations have been accused of hiding the extent of migrant crime since the begging of the migrant crisis, when the continent struggled to cope with million-plus new arrivals.
After the 2015/16 New Years Eve mass sex attacks in Cologne, Germany, police were criticised for initially not making public the background of perpetrators. The majority were later revealed to be asylum seekers.
And in January 2016, Swedish police were ordered not to release descriptions of criminal suspects that include race or nationality, to avoid being branded racist.