Eastern Europeans can easily apply for multiple passports in their own country. In this way they can commit fraud in the Netherlands, such as applying for benefits. How is that possible? Research reporter Siebe Sietsma answers five questions.

1. Where is it going wrong?

Here in the Netherlands. EU citizens can settle freely here, but we have forgotten to agree on how we register them. If a Pole or Romanian appears at the counter, the most important thing for us is the name.

But in former Eastern Bloc countries, however, the administration works on the basis of a number. A unique personal code that people get at birth and that never changes again. This number is also included in passports from these countries, but we do not look at it in the Netherlands. People can change their names in their homeland, and build a new identity with their new names here in the Netherlands.

2. Do these people then have multiple passports?

No, in the event of a name change, an old passport is taken in the home country. But of course, no such message goes to the Netherlands. If you have applied for a surcharge with your old passport, it will continue to apply. Your Burger Service Number (BSN) also remains valid, just like for example a credit card. With your new name and new identity card you can then use new facilities.

3. How can the Eastern Europeans change their name?

When I visited Romania, I was shocked by the extreme poverty in which EU citizens live. According to police sources, this is an important motive to come here and catch any opportunity. The law in those countries makes it easy to change a name. And it is cheap: in Romania and Poland it only costs 10 to 15 euros. Compare this to the high costs and heavy procedure for changing your name in the Netherlands.

However, the problem is wider than just Eastern Europeans. You also want to be able to identify other EU citizens. How is it now arranged with the Italian or Belgian who changes his name and reports here? I am afraid that there is no solution there. We are therefore defenseless against this type of identity fraud. The police have already found more than 49,000 possible cases of this fraud during an initial check.

4. Who should solve this problem?

In Eastern Europe, they have no problem with all these name changes because their citizens’ personal code always remains the same. So the ball is here for the time being, we are also turning for the damage. But it is actually a problem for the EU. Because if you want free movement of people and goods, you also have to make sure that you make agreements about the way in which you register your citizens. Do you use their name or their number? That is the question. But in the long term, however, another method needs to be found.

5. Which methods then?

Public administrations here must first of all register the personal codes of Eastern Europeans. But, of course, there may be a day when these codes will also be changed, or will expire. That is not a firm anchorage point.

The police resolve some cases of identity fraud with fingerprints and other biometric data. These data provide the most tight solution. But in the Netherlands, we do not want to record this in a government database, let alone entrust it to Brussels.

The solution mentioned by the NVVB is a European number for all EU citizens who are then given a passport. That is the most feasible method of closing this leak, I think. But knowing Brussels, it takes years to implement.