Migrants hardly vote in Flanders

10th May 2012, Comments 0 comments

A large-scale survey among 7 000 migrants from outside the EU, which covers opinions on quality of life and  integration policy in fifteen EU cities, including Antwerp, Brussels and Liège, delivered some interesting results. It seems most newcomers to Belgium do not view Belgian nationality as a goal in itself, but rather a means to facilitate access to employment and studies. Only 43% of the respondents in Belgium have a paid job and despite the fact that they are multilingual, most of them attribute their lack of employment to poor language proficiency.

Virtually every respondent found language and integration courses useful. As in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels will also add integration programmes for newcomers to their existing language courses but unlike in Flanders, they will not be compulsory.

On average, 27% of all migrants are employed below their level, with one of the reasons being the difficulties in respect of obtaining recognition for foreign diplomas. It's striking how big the difference in immigrant attendance was between Belgian cities during the municipal elections of 2006.

Immigrants from outside the EU who had been resident in Belgium for at least five years were allowed to register as voters. In Antwerp only 3.2% of those entitled to vote, actually did, whereas the attendance amounted to 20.5% and 22% in Brussels and Liège respectively.

Professor of Sociology at the Free University of Brussels ULB, Dirk Jacobs, attributes the poor attendance in Flanders to the lack of  communication by Flemish local authorities, as the government of Flanders does not compel them to keep registered voters informed. Geert Bourgeois N-VA, Flemish Minister of Civic Affairs, Local and Provincial Government, has made it clear that Flanders will compel local authorities to do so during the next elections.

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