A view of Rotterdam , Source: Daniel Aguudelo / Unsplash

Rotterdam will fund name-changes for descendants of enslaved people

Rotterdam will fund name-changes for descendants of enslaved people

Currently, changing your name in the Netherlands is prohibitively expensive

This week Rotterdam announced a new programme to support citizens who have family predecessors who were slaves. The city plans to fund the whole procedure of a name change for people who still carry slavery-related names.

This is a big step for Rotterdam, as the process can be quite costly, however, the move will also relieve citizens from a potentially conflicting and difficult part of their identity. At the same time, it represents the city administration’s commitment to rectifying the mistakes of the past.

Moreover, city officials have petitioned Dutch national authorities to remove the financial barrier for name changes, specifically for descendants of enslaved people, a change that will come into force in 2024. In the meantime, Rotterdam will foot the bill for local residents who cannot wait any longer.

Changing your name can be prohibitively expensive  

Changing your name in the Netherlands can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming, meaning that the privilege is usually reserved for people who are very committed. Yet for descendants of enslaved people, changing their family name is not a luxury or fad – instead, it can represent a traumatic experience, forcing people to reconcile their past and present challenges.

The procedure to change your name in the Netherlands costs 835 euros, plus the cost of issuing a new birth certificate – 15.70 euros. And since an application to change your name also needs to include a statement from a psychologist, the city will also fund consultations.

The new offer has been available since 1 May and will continue until Dutch national authorities amend the country's regulations. Additionally, the city will partner with the organisation Diaspora Wellhouse to help guide people through the emotional moment of reconciling with their past. Diaspora Wellhouse is centred on providing mental health support specifically for people of colour.

According to an official statement, the organisation explained that it is very important to offer culturally sensitive aid during this transition. Moreover, the whole process would help to restore some of the shattered cultural ties and identity for current and future generations.  

The Dutch Slave trade

While most people rarely need to change their names, many descendants of enslaved people still carry the names of the plantations where their ancestors were exploited.

Slavery in the Dutch colonies was abolished in 1863, but before that colonial authorities were able to forcefully move an estimated 500,000 people between the late 16th century and the mid-19th century. This roughly amounts to 5% to 6% of the entire volume of the transatlantic slave trade.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU