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Integrating refugees “the Rotterdam way”

Very soon, the responsibility of integrating the status holders will lie in the hands of Dutch municipalities

  • July 02, 2020 11:30
  • Author Aseniya Dimitrova
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Source: Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay

As of 1st July 2021, there will be new legislation regarding the integration of asylum seekers in the Netherlands. With the main responsibility laying in the hands of local authorities, Rotterdam intends to approach the matter in its own way, ensuring that the newcomers stand a better chance at getting a job and at leading a normal life in the city.

Three paths towards integration

According to the new Civic Integration Act, in one year’s time, Rotterdam, just like the rest of the municipalities in the Netherlands, will be in charge of the integration of the asylum-seekers or status holders assigned to its territory. With this in mind, the city presented its idea on how to efficiently ensure the integration of these people by helping them learn Dutch and how to be financially self-reliant.

To start with, Rotterdam will be performing a language and learnability test in order to establish the initial language training and career orientation of each individual. Based on this, the municipality will swiftly prepare a personal integration plan with the participation of the permit holder. The participation of both parties aims to ensure that they both adhere to the plan in the future.

This system will categorize everyone into three learning routes. First, the B1 route will cover around 60% of the cases and will give better perspectives, as the level achieved at the end is higher than A1, which is currently required by law (with A1 being the lowest and C2 – the highest, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

There will also be a z-route, or self-reliance route. This will include around 25% of the cases, for those who can learn less. This route is more practical and aims to increase self-reliance and offer perspective on paid work.

Finally, the education route (for about 15% of permit holders) is a language transition program that prepares participants to go further in their education. All routes combine language lessons with career training and social counselling on how to become (financially) self-reliant.

The current situation with the integration of refugees

As the municipality of Rotterdam points out, the current law dating from 2013 states that persons integrating themselves are responsible for their own integration. This way, they can purchase language lessons with a loan, but studies show that this does not work very well. It is believed that the system encourages fraud and, in the end, many participants end up with poor knowledge and mastery of the language even after spending years in the country.

Now, the new law permits for the municipalities themselves to manage the language and participation budget for the status holder and work together with language schools and social organizations on the successful integration. Currently, the municipality is in discussion with regional language providers, welfare parties and voluntary organizations about how they want to implement the integration law together.

We can offer status holders a better and more realistic approach with customization,” explained alderman Bert Wijbenga, responsible for integration, quoted by the municipal website. “The ultimate goal is that permit holders with paid work can participate in Rotterdam society. The new law gives us the opportunity to do it the Rotterdam way”.

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