Integration courses: expats face double exam

In future immigrants who follow the Flemish government's integration courses will have to pass two tests in order to receive an integration proficiency certificate. People who take the course will have to pass for 'Dutch as Second Language' and for 'Social Orientation'. Until now participants merely had to follow the course to gain the proficiency certificate. The measure is one of a raft contained in the Flemish Integration Minister's first integration policy statement.

The integration courses are obligatory for non-EU citizens settling in Flanders, but not in its capital.

The Flemish Integration Minister, Liesbeth Homans, also says that by 2020 a full ten percent of Flemish civil servants should be of immigrant heritage. According to figures published in the daily De Morgen only 3.1% of Flemish civil servants are presently of immigrant heritage, some 1,344 workers.

It’s understood that the minister wants job interviewees to be screened to make sure they are not being excluded on the basis of their heritage.

Liesbeth Homans: "A government that wants to convince others to close the ethnic gap is far more convincing when it practises a far-reaching diversity policy on its own territory."

The definition of who has and who does not have immigrant heritage is to be relaxed too.

Johan Wets is immigration expert at the High Institute for Labour in Leuven: "It will be difficult to find enough staff partly because education levels will often be too low."

Other planks of Ms Homans's policy document include:

The Flemish government is publishing a guide for gays and lesbians who participate in sports. The guide will also include tips on how to deal with violent situations.

In Equal opportunities the integration policy document envisages a shift in favour of giving men more opportunities: the minister is eager to change Flemish attitudes towards stay-at-home men.

Ms Homans also hopes to encourage municipalities to merge if they so wish and will provide a financial incentive for them to do so. The Integration Minister intends to step up surveillance on the use of the Dutch language in the six Flemish municipalities around Brussels where French-speakers enjoy special rights. An inspector from the Interior Governance Agency will attend meetings of the municipal cabinet and council.
 

AP2013