Dutch integration policy “failed miserably” says Hague alderman

The Netherlands' integration policy "failed miserably", according to Hague alderman Rabin Baldewsingh (PvdA). His efforts to get this issue on the national government's agenda are continually unsuccessful, so he decided to launch his own integration program in The Hague, he said in an interview with the Volkskrant.

According to Baldewsingh, immigrants live on welfare benefits more often and are less involved in society."This strengthens the sense of us-and-them in our city. It reinforces the rage that is already encouraged by populists who ant to break society." he said to the newspaper. He calls the problems with integration a "collective failure" of the Netherlands. "The Rutte I and II cabinets did a lot of damage with cutbacks here. Immigrants now have to go into deep debt to learn the language. No one checks them, nobody helps them."

"The vulnerable layer in The Hague and Dutch society will get bigger if we do not invest in the newcomers. That is a major danger to social cohesion. Then the bottom layer drags the top layer down, instead of the other way around", Baldewsingh said. 

Baldewsingh's integration program focuses on a number of "pillars" - getting acquainted and building a social network, discovering the city, and learning norms, values and the language. "You must experience The Hague through compulsory social internships, for example at a sports club, a hospital and reception at the city hall", he said. "And as for the Hague residents themselves, I expect them to share their background, knowledge, network and experiences with newcomers. To that end we'll organize city and district talks with old and new residents."

The Hague is spending 7 million euros on this plan over the next 18 months. Immigrants will receive intensive guidance. "The city has 7,800 officials each of whom I would like to connect with one immigrant. Two hours a month they'll go together to the library, the beach, a show, I don't mind." he said to the newspaper. Immigrants who refuse to participate, will face deductions on their benefits, Baldewsingh added.

The alderman expects that his plan will have great social effects. "That fewer newcomers end up on welfare, and that they will do more volunteer work. That there are fewer problems and less loneliness in the city."