New integration rules for newcomers in Flanders: "We are asking more, but are also offering more"

The Interior Affairs Commission in Flemish Parliament has approved the revamped version of the integration journey. Newcomers will have to pay more and have a better knowledge of Dutch. The document will now go to the Flemish Parliament for the final approval. 

What's new for newcomers? This what you need to know: 

  • The integration course will cost at least 360 euros: 90 euros for the Dutch language course and 90 for the social orientation course, and another 90 for each of the two exams. 
  • People will have to pass both exams - in the past they only had to prove they had done their best. 
  • The Flemish employment and vocational training service VDAB will step in within two months. 
  • Newcomers will get a personal "buddy" for counselling and practical advice, for a duration of at least 40 hours. 
  • The demands for the knowledge of Dutch will become a little higher, at least for those who can't find a job. 

The Flemish Minister responsible for integration Bart Somers says "we are asking more, but we also offer more chances. Everyone will get a personal integration plan. Highly educated people can go faster, while those who find it more difficult, get better support." 

Newcomers will have to pass, or they will have to do the exam again. "We don't do this to punish them, but to help them not to lose the contact. If you don't know enough about our society or speak insufficient Dutch, you have no chance to integrate." 

The accord has been criticised in the past because of the higher (financial) demands. It is feared that fewer people will take part who are now doing this on a voluntary basis. For others, e.g. refugees, the price can become an extra burden. The Council of State gave a negative advice. 

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