Dutch integration process to include stricter language, job requirements from 2021

Lady Justice in Netherlands
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Some immigrants and asylum seekers who arrive in the Netherlands from next summer year may be required to learn a higher level of Dutch and to take up an occupation or voluntary service in tandem with language courses in order to integrate more quickly, according to a new proposal by Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Wouter Koolmees. The ministry has determined that the current integration system is no longer sufficient, according to a statement published on Friday.

"They prefer to combine language lessons with (volunteer) work. This allows them to quickly participate fully in Dutch society," the ministry said in a statement. Aiming to be brought into force from July of 2021, the new rules would rely heavily on the involvement of local governments.

"[Municipalities] are closest to those who integrate. This allows them to provide the customization that is required," the ministry stated. Municipalities will assist in removing some of the burdens that many with refugee status face even when receiving benefits. "For the first six months, the municipalities will pay the rent, health insurance and gas, water and electricity bills from this benefit."

Because the cabinet believes it takes too long for asylum seekers to assimilate into Dutch society, the ministry wants to implement necessary reforms to the integration system "as soon as possible".

"The existing system also leaves room for malicious parties to, for example, commit fraud during language lessons," the cabinet added, pointing out that the new proposal, which includes a moratorium on loans for asylum seekers, would be a solution to this problem.

Language school fraud

A number of schools designed to teach language and integration courses to refugee status holders were accused in a scheme where they provided money or gifts to would-be students if they signed up for nonexistent courses. They would be asked to sign fake invoices in the scam that was estimated to involve millions of euros, an investigation by the newspaper De Volkskrant stated last week.

With the help of an undercover student, the newspaper revealed that a number of language schools lure people in using gift certificates, laptops or money in exchange for signing a contract for enrollment. In many cases, according to the investigation, these courses never actually took place. One language school was found to have submitted invoices for hundreds of fictional students.

The scheme can be lucrative for both the student and the language school, de Volkskrant reported. This is because the 10,000 euros to which each asylum seeker with a residence permit is entitled by the Education Executive Agency (DUO) for his/her education can be distributed without a lesson ever even having taken place.​

The newspaper's investigation concluded that the problem was familiar to many, but the scale of fraud was greater than had been anticipated.