Integration or Isolation? The case of Flemish Government's new law
The new Flemish government is coalition of 3 major parties, Christian democrats (CD&V), the liberals (VLD) and Flemish nationalists (N-VA). All three parties have written a 300-page government accord for the next five years. It is clear that the Integration policy in the Vlaamse Accord has become stricter and worrisome for newcomers.
The newcomers will have to pay 360 euros each individual for taking the integration courses and the exams. They will have to take two courses, one for the language and the other one for orientation in the society. Failing in the exams and a re-sit will cost each person a further 90 euros.
As in the past, asylum seekers were encouraged to learn Dutch to be able to integrate and find work until they receive recognition but under the new government they will only be able to qualify for integration courses after the recognition.
A good grip on the language (Dutch) will be required at the end of the course and language skills will be tested in an exam after two years.
The new government policy also introduces restrictions on access to social security. Extra care for the elderly and people with serious needs resulting from an illness will only be available after having paid into the system for ten years.
Only the people who have lived in a municipality for 5 years without interruption will be qualified for social housing benefits.
Newcomers in their current state of seeking asylum will not get child allowances anymore.
The new measures in the accord have hit newcomers very hard, especially the fees for the integration courses and requirements for social housing. Refugees believe that it will be most difficult for them to pay for the courses. They also believe that not being able to work, take language and integration courses until recognition will waste their time which can be years of duration.
Ali Murtaza, an immigrant from Afghanistan has recently received recognition in Antwerpen province of Belgium, talked to the Voices of the World. Ali said that he is already facing a lot of trouble finding accommodation due to his status and limited financial resources, moreover he will have to pay now 360 euros for integration course which is worrying him that how will he manage.
Jellal, from Ethiopia while talking to VOW said, “How will the already troubled and financially doomed refugees be able to contribute first and receive any benefits later?“
“And what will be motivating them to take an integration course if it is costly and strict?” he said.
10 years of wait for Social housing and Zorgkas (subsidies provided to those with special care needs) will affect the newcomers most. Due to any unexpected incident if anyone is in a serious need of those benefits before paying 10 years into the system is also a circulated unanswered question among newcomers.
Integration is a feeling rather than a method, a feeling of being welcomed. Processing such laws and implementing stricter rules will create an unwelcoming atmosphere which will only guide towards isolation, not integration.