Expatica news

Integration policy ‘failed, migrants succeeded’

19 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — A large number of immigrants fully or at least partially managed to fit into life in the Netherlands despite the apparent failure of government integration policies, a new report has claimed. 

Having studied the nation’s integration policy of the past 30 years in recent months, the Blok Commission presented its final conclusions on Monday and said that the success of integration is due to the migrants themselves and native Dutch.

The 2,500 page report did not specifically label integration policies as a failure, but said that integration took place in the Netherlands “in spite of” rather then “thanks to” the policies of successive governments, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

Integration is at the top of the political agenda at present and amid the toughening of legislation in recent years to reduce the number of asylum seekers and immigrants, the government is increasingly keen to obligate all newcomers to learn the Dutch language and culture.

Sharpening concerns of “ethnic crime”, cries of “the Netherlands is full” from anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn shortly before an animal rights activist assassinated him in May 2002, and claims by MPs that integration policies were failing, led to the creation of the investigative commission last year.

And placed against the report’s surprising twist praising migrants and Dutch natives for integration successes, the commission also said government-requested advice was frequently ignored in the past 30 years and policies often backdated the facts and many objectives were not obtained.

But the report itself came in for a storm of criticism on Monday as the nation’s politicians got to grips with its conclusion.

The government coalition parties, the Liberal VVD and Christian Democrat CDA, as well as the opposition parties, the populist LPF and Socialist Party (SP), said point blank that the commission had simply got it wrong and that is report was weak.

The VVD said integration had failed and that the commission lacked a “sense of reality”. Outspoken Somali-born VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali said the commission had failed to seize the opportunity to offer solutions to tough problems, an NOS news report said.

CDA parliamentary leader Maxime Verhagen said the recommendations were too non-committal and general. He also said he regretted that it had shied away from unanimously declaring the failure of the nation’s integration policies.

Coalition government member Democrat D66 said the commission’s recommendations were “very careful”. It also said the findings lacked suggestions to discourage family unification marriage, which sees many Turkish and Moroccan brides enter the country.

Main opposition party Labour PvdA and green-left GroenLinks also said the commission’s recommendations were not hard enough and populist LPF was also greatly disappointed by the end conclusions. In contrast though to the LPF, the PvdA did not claim that integration policies have failed

The criticism comes despite the fact the commission report said successive Cabinets and the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, had for many years underestimated the importance of integration and misjudged the necessity of learning Dutch.

Besides language, the commission said norms and standards and the unwritten rules of Dutch society must be more intensively conveyed to migrants.

The present centre-right Cabinet has learned very little from the past, having discarded at the end of 2002 almost all of the recommendations for effective integration given to the government by its Integration Taskforce, it said.

The commission has urged for a more energetic and better co-ordinated integration policy. It also said such policies should no longer be non-committal, neither for the government, nor for migrants. It said immigrants should be obliged to integrate into Dutch society.

And one of the very few hazy recommendations from the commission is the advice that municipal authorities and schools do not need to make committal agreements to ensure the better spread of migrants to prevent the build up of “black schools”.

The commission said that “black” implied something about the percentage of migrants at a school, not necessarily the level of academic performance. The school’s academic level is dependant on the education of parents and their language skills, which are in itself problematic.

Black schools are created by the concentration of migrants in certain suburbs and the choices of parents, who often choose for their children to attend schools with a large number of students from the same background. Dutch parents have been blamed for withdrawing their children from schools with a rising immigrant population.
Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution, which protects the right of the free establishment of schools, hinders the choice possibilities, the report said, but the commission did not make any recommendations of change.

But the commission is keen to break the concentration of migrants in various city suburbs, advising that satellite towns and regions accommodate many more low-income earners by providing more affordable rental and purchase homes.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news + immigration