Ministers are to take steps to combat the ‘worrying’ shortfall in the number of immigrants taking integration courses, the minister in charge, Eberhard van der Laan, announced on Tuesday.
By the end of July, just 20,000 people had signed up for the compulsory courses, well below the full-year target of 50,000. And only 13 of the country’s 52 biggest towns and cities are meeting their individual targets, the minister said.
‘ Integration requires newcomers to take part in society, through school, work and in their neighbourhoods,’ the minister said. ‘That is why we expect the new Dutch to do their best to participate in our society and that they seize the chances we are offering them.’
Van der Laan told MPs the government had already tried to make it easier for people to take up the courses. The budget has been increased by €460m over five years for integration projects, on top of the annual budget of €260m, he said. Steps had also been taken to improve the registration system and remove other obstacles.
New legislation requiring immigrants from outside the EU to pass an integration exam was introduced in 2007 but proved to be a bureaucratic nightmare.
Van der Laan said he now plans to require the rest of the biggest towns and cities, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, to make sure everyone who should attend a course is given one. Some 80,000 people have still not been approached, he said.
And the minister said he plans to reclaim money given to councils who did not meet their targets between 2007 and 2009.
Earlier this year, Van der Laan said he planned to scrap the €270 fee which everyone taking an integration course has to pay.
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