Utrecht to cut benefits for those not integrating
About 1,300 immigrants in Utrecht who refuse to sign up for an integration course may have their social benefits reduced.
Utrecht – About 1,300 foreigners in Utrecht on social welfare face having their allowance reduced if they refuse to follow a formal integration course and improve their knowledge of the Dutch society, reports de Volkskrant on Wednesday.
The Utrecht city council wrote a letter to the unemployed immigrants asking them to sign up for a formal integration course or risk having their unemployment benefits cut.
The integration courses are compulsory for non-EU citizens who do not hold Dutch passports.
A spokesman for Integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan said the measure was legally possible because it was being applied to people who were not making enough efforts to improve their chances of getting a job.
In August, the minister said only 20,000 people had signed up for the compulsory courses, well below this year’s target of 50,000. The minister added only 13 of the country's 52 biggest towns and cities are meeting their individual targets.
However, the cities claimed that the group who is not required by law to integrate is much larger than the group who has to integrate.
“It is difficult as the largest group who would most benefit from an integration course does not have to do it,” said Michel Kanters, department head of social development Amsterdam.
Kanters added this group of immigrants is likely to refuse signing up for an integration course because it is not mandatory.
In Utrecht, out of 24,000 non-native Dutch, a majority of 17,000 are not obliged to take up an integration course.
Two thirds of them are women and many are illiterate and have never seen the inside of a school, said Larbi Edriouch, a spokesperson of the Utrecht city council.