Expatica news

Immigrants to pay for own integration course

14 November 2005

BRUSSELS — Flemish Integration Minister Marino Keulen is drawing up new integration legislation in which immigrant students will need to personally pay for their courses.

Employment Minister Frank Vandenbroucke is also moving to significantly boost the means with which employer associations can stimulate the recruitment of immigrant workers.

Keulen wants to amend current federal legislation, particularly the section that deals with penalising students who refuse to enter an integration course.

Currently, the matter is dealt with by the judiciary, but public prosecutors are dropping most of the cases because they have other priorities.

In future, Keulen wants to fine immigrants, but the amount of the penalty has not yet been announced, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported on Monday.

The most important change is that Keulen wants to make students pay for their integration course. The amount will depend on the student’s financial means or those of his or her partner.

Whoever starts but fails to finish the course — which is designed to reduce social tension by integrating newcomers into Flemish society — will have to pay more.

Keulen also intends to make it compulsory for family unification and marriage immigrants to undergo an integration course.

The previous Flemish government thought such a regulation breached European and international treaties, but Keulen is of another opinion.

The Liberal VLD minister is also targeting immigrants who have been in Belgium for an extended period of time. If they are unemployed, the immigrants will be offered an integration course.

Moreover, he will also urge parents to send their children to Flemish schools and not always to a vocational or technical school. He also wants to boost the number of immigrant children at non-compulsory pre-schools.

Meanwhile, Socialist SP.A Employment Minister Vandenbroucke said the employment level of immigrants in Flanders is disappointing and that the government had to invest more.
He proposed strongly boosting the budgets of employers associations Voka and Unizo so that they can convince more companies to take on immigrant workers.

Voka and Unizo already have initiatives such as Jobkanaal and the Servicepunt KMO & Diversiteit, but Vandenbroucke said these projects need to be revised.

Prejudice and racism must be completely eliminated and the Flemish employment bureau VDAB must offer more chances for immigrants.

Vandenbroucke announced earlier this that year he would help companies draw up a diversity plan and has now committed an annual allocation of EUR 5 million.

However, at a congress of the Minorities Forum on Saturday, the minister said he was not in favour of ‘anonymous’ job applications to combat racism.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news