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What to do if you are arrested abroad

More than 2,500 Dutch nationals are in prison abroad, mostly for smuggling drugs. The embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will assist them, for instance by contacting a lawyer and providing information about criminal justice in the country concerned.

Keeping the embassy or consulate informed
Have you been arrested abroad? Ask the police or prison staff to inform the Dutch embassy or consulate of your arrest. Tell the police whether you want to be visited by staff from the embassy or consulate.

Friends or relatives in the Netherlands can phone the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report an arrest abroad: +31 (0) 70 348 4770.

Legal assistance
If you have broken the law abroad, you will be subject to that country’s legal system. Having a Dutch passport makes no difference to this fact. You will be treated in the same way as anyone else who is arrested.

The embassy cannot ensure that you will be released or receive preferential treatment. But it can help you find:
• a (new) lawyer. The embassy will not pay for the lawyer. It may ask your relatives for money to pay for legal assistance;
• information about the country’s judicial system, such as how long you may be kept in custody awaiting trial, whether you can be released on bail, and how you can appeal;
• an interpreter;
• information about whether it is possible to serve your sentence in the Netherlands.

The Probation Service
The embassy can put you in touch with the Foreign Section of the Dutch Probation Service. The Probation Service can help you find useful ways to spend your time while you are detained, such as language courses or other distance learning. The Probation Service can also refer you to organisations that will assist and advise you after your release with problems such as finding a job and a place to live.

Contact with home
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will, if you wish, keep in touch with your family and friends in the Netherlands. It will do so via a person of your choice. The Ministry will:
• inform your family of the arrest;
• inform your family about the legal system in the country;
• forward your messages;
• mediate between you and your chosen contact about money, for example for a lawyer.

The contact can reach the Ministry at: +31 (0) 70 348 4770.

Correspondence, parcels, and visits
Every prison has its own rules, including rules governing correspondence with family and friends. And rules governing censorship of your post. Every country has its own rules for prison visits. The embassy or consulate can explain how the visiting system works and what rules apply to parcels. The embassy or consulate cannot send packages to the prison on the family’s behalf.

Money in prison
Every Dutch national imprisoned in a country outside the EU (except Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, the Vatican City, Monaco, Andorra and Liechtenstein) receives 30 €s a month from the Dutch government. They can use this money to buy necessities such as toothpaste and shampoo.

If you require a larger amount, for example to pay a fine or legal fees, you will have to ask your family or friends for the money.

The family can pay the amount into the Ministry’s bank account. You will then receive the money from the embassy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague will inform your family about this procedure.

The embassy will not lend you any money.

Complaints about detention
Do you have any complaints about the conditions or your treatment in prison? Every prison has a complaints procedure. First, report your complaint to the prison. If that doesn’t help, discuss your complaint with the embassy.

The embassy or consulate can only complain to the prison on your behalf if you are being treated worse than your fellow inmates. If that is the case, the embassy will – after discussions with you – insist that you be treated humanely. If your human rights are being violated – for instance, if you are being tortured – the Netherlands will hold the country detaining you responsible.

Illness during detention
Do you have medical problems for which you require regular medication? Inform the prison doctor and the embassy.

The embassy will inform the prison doctor of your medical problems. It can also help you obtain additional medication. You will have to pay for the medication yourself.

Contact and questions
Have you been arrested abroad?
For advice, contact the Dutch embassy or consulate. If there is no Dutch embassy or consulate, you can contact the embassy of another EU country.

Has a relative or your partner been arrested abroad?
Phone the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: +31 (0) 70 348 4770.