Cabinet approves €500 million for asylum seeker integration plans

The Dutch government is making 500 million euros available for the integration of asylum seekers who are given refugee status and allowed to stay in the Netherlands, Minister Lodewijk Asscher of Social Affairs, Minister Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs and chairman of the Association of Dutch Municipalities Jan van Zanen announced on Thursday, NU reports.

Earlier on Thursday there were reports that the government is making 700 million euros available for integration. Those reports turned out to be too high. Of the 500 million made available, 353 million euros comes from the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development's budget. The other 150 million euros will come from other ministries.

According to Asscher, the Netherlands must learn from past mistakes and realized that integration is a shared responsibility. "We have a shared interest and that is that integration must succeed", he said, according to NU.

The extra money the government is making available is only for municipalities who provide homes for refugees. There are currently some 16 thousand people with residency permits living in asylum centers while waiting for a home to become available. According to Plaster, this is "an incentive" for municipalities to work on housing for refugees.

To help refugees become part of Dutch society quickly, they will be screened on their experience, skills and qualifications while they are in the asylum centers. This information will be used to help decide in which municipality they will be placed. "During this procedure we want to see what skills people have and test their diplomas. So we don't send an IT worker to Urk and a fisherman to Eindhoven", Asscher explained. He added that this does not mean that municipalities with fewer opportunities will not need to house refugees. It is not yet clear how this will be put into practice.

The Association of Dutch Municipalities is satisfied with the agreement. The expenses incurred in housing asylum seekers now no longer comes at the expense of municipalities' facilities. That is good for public support, according to Van Zanen.

Asylum seeker organization Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland is reasonably happy with the agreement. "It covers the real costs of the municipalities. That is good", spokesperson Martijn van der Linden said to NU. According to him, the agreement "makes the best of the bad situation in asylum centers" by getting integration started.

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