Belgium: Immigrants to pay for their integration course

Flemish Integration Minister Marino Keulen is drawing up new integration legislation in which immigrant students will need to personally pay for their courses.

Employment Minister Frank Vandenbroucke is also moving to significantly boost the means with which employer associations can stimulate the recruitment of immigrant workers.

The most important change is that Keulen wants to make students pay for their integration course. The amount will depend on the student's financial means or those of his or her partner.

Whoever starts but fails to finish the course — which is designed to reduce social tension by integrating newcomers into Flemish society — will have to pay more.

Keulen also intends to make it compulsory for family unification and marriage immigrants to undergo an integration course.

The previous Flemish government thought such a regulation breached European and international treaties, but Keulen is of another opinion.

The Liberal VLD minister is also targeting immigrants who have been in Belgium for an
extended period of time. If they are unemployed, the immigrants will be offered an integration course.

Moreover, he will also urge parents to send their children to Flemish schools and not always to a vocational or technical school. He also wants to boost the number of immigrant children at non-compulsory pre-schools.

Meanwhile, Socialist SP.A Employment Minister Vandenbroucke said the employment level of immigrants in Flanders is disappointing and that the government had to invest more. He proposed strongly boosting the budgets of employers associations Voka and Unizo so that they can convince more companies to take on immigrant workers.

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