More money needed for new integration system, local councils tell minister

Officials in charge of integrating immigrants in the four big cities have called on social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees to put more money into the process.

Aldermen from Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague have written to the minister saying new rules on integration, which are due to come into effect in 2021, involve shifting a lot of responsibility to local authorities. ‘But “local” should not be a synonym for “cheap”,’ the aldermen say.

In May, the Dutch local authorities association VNG pulled out of talks on the new rules, saying central government was not providing proper financial support for the project.

Research by advisory group AEF and the government’s own macro-economic think-tank CPB says a structural €197m is needed to implement the new rules – €42m more than the ministry’s budget.

This, the aldermen say, is too big a shortfall for them to pick up. And they say, the move is part of a trend to decentralise key work without making the necessary resources available, as happened with home-based care services.


Since 2013 new migrants have been given a loan of €10,000 and have been expected to find their own Dutch language and citizenship classes. The loan becomes repayable if they fail to pass their integration exams within three years of arriving.

However, Koolmees said in 2018 that the current ‘do it yourself’ approach to integration had failed and said local authorities would instead be given responsibility for integrating new migrants and refugees.

The plans involve giving councils budgets for language tuition to ease the burden on applicants. Municipalities will also have to devise an individual integration plan for everyone required to take the exams.

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