Memo: The right to protest, civil disobedience and your residence permit

Why was this memo created?

PILP-NJCM was asked by a group of activists: What are the possible consequences of participating in civil disobedience to the immigration status of persons of non-Dutch nationalities with legal residence?

PILP-NJCM decided to create a memo on this topic, which can be read here.

The essence of this memo

It is important to stress that the right to protest is a human right which may be invoked by every person, including those who reside in the Netherlands holding a residence permit. The right to protest encompasses civil disobedience at demonstrations. Accordingly, such actions are protected by human rights, based on, amongst other provisions, Article 11 of the European Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms (ECHR). Nevertheless, crimes may arise in a protest. Participating in a protest where things suddenly get out of control or partaking in illegal actions, may have legal consequences, such as the imposition of a fine or a criminal prosecution.

But what are the possible consequences for persons holding a residence permit? The same consequences based on criminal law, of course. In addition, they may, in exceptional cases,  face negative consequences with regard to their immigration status.

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (immigration authority) may decide to revoke, deny to extend and reject an application for a residence permit, but only in the event of a conviction of a serious crime and when the legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Currently, the risk of imposition of these negative decisions is very small. There are no recent examples in the case law in which demonstrators have been criminally punished for actions during a protest, that could be in itself enough to terminate their legal residence.

In general, the mere participation in a peaceful protest will not have any consequences for the validity of your residence permit. As far as we can see, from a migration law point of view, in practice the same will be true for most protests where the law is breached and for actions of civil disobedience.

It is important to take into account that this memo cannot predict the future; the decisions which the immigration authorities may take, depend on the committed crimes, the priorities of the prosecutor, the imposed punishment and legal residence of the person concerned.


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