Verdonk scales back integration course target
7 December 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government has announced it will restrict the number of people who must pass an integration exam to 750,000, rather than the initial target of one million.
7 December 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government has announced it will restrict the number of people who must pass an integration exam to 750,000, rather than the initial target of one million.
But it is pressing ahead with its plans to make lower educated Dutch citizens take the same language and culture exams that will be imposed on immigrants.
Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Tuesday newcomers, social security recipients, unemployed women who are not claiming social security benefit, and religious leaders from outside the European Union will be obliged to pass an integration exam. Municipal councils will provide the exams.
The Cabinet agreed last Friday on changes to Verdonk's initial plans, paving the way for both the four immigrant target groups and native Dutch people, who have not completed eight years of schooling in the Netherlands, to undergo integration exams, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.
The amendment requiring lower educated Dutch people to also undergo the integration exam is considered necessary to ensure the integration measures cannot be declared discriminatory. Verdonk accepted advice last week urging that the clause be included in the draft legislation.
A letter introducing the legislation was sent to the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday and is the government's response to the social tension and polarisation witnessed in the Netherlands in recent years - tension largely blamed on immigration.
Permanent immigrants — rather than expats — are earmarked for integration. EU citizens, Antilleans, Arubans and anyone aged above 65 will not need to undergo an integration exam either, news agency Novum reported. Immigrants already living in the Netherlands with a family who fail to pass an integration exam will not be deported.
Municipal councils will retain the key role in integration. They will continue to arrange and pay for the courses, but some people — such as newly-arrived family unification immigrants — will be required to pay for the course themselves.
New arrivals will be required to pass the exam within three and a half years or risk being repeatedly fined EUR 400. The issuing of permanent residence permit can also be postponed.
Anyone else required to integrate can do so at their own initiative and will need to pay for the course themselves, but they might be repaid the costs at a later stage. Nevertheless, priority will be given to the integration of new arrivals, social security recipients and disadvantaged women due to the restricted capacity of courses.
In total, Verdonk intends to make it compulsory for 755,000 people to integrate in coming years, including 210,000 social security recipients required to seek work and 75,000 women without work or benefits. But courses will not be provided to all of them at once due to organisational and financial restrictions.
It is expected that 18,000 new arrivals and 44,000 people from other target groups will be provided with an integration course each year. This will cost EUR 50 and 185 million respectively. EUR 35 million has been allocated to those who enroll in integration courses on their own initiative. A total of 23,000 people per year are expected to do this.
Municipalities and immigrants will be given greater choice regarding courses as the government moves to open up the education market. Regional Training Centres (ROCs) will face competition from private training institutes in future.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news