Belgium: Major changes to Flanders' integration programmes
Integration programmes in Flanders have been a much-debated topic in discussions around the formation of the region's current government, which previously announced major changes to the living conditions of migrants.
These changes are now about to come into force, following approval - by the Internal Affairs Commission of the Flemish Parliament - of the Jambon (N-VA) government's new integration policy last Tuesday.
Flanders' new integration programme will comprise four main steps:
- Learning the Dutch language;
- Becoming economically independent as quickly as possible, partly through cooperation with the Flemish Employment Office (VDAB);
- Learning how Flemish society works and becoming familiar with its norms and values;
- Taking part in a tandem-team programme lasting 40 hours, in which each integration candidate is linked with a Flemish citizen.
Once an individual has completed these four steps they will be required to take an integration exam, and if they fail could face severe consequences (details to be announced).
In addition, this compulsory programme will no longer be free for migrants: each candidate will be required to pay a fee of €360. Until now integration programmes have been free in every region of Belgium, so this reform is the subject of heated debate.