Dutch Integration Minister wants free language lessons for migrants
24 August 2007
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The new Dutch Minister for Integration, Ella Vogelaar, wants to make language lessons for immigrants free of charge. It's a big change from her predecessor, Rita Verdonk, who took a more hardline approach.
Vogelaar, in her "Naturalization Deltaplan", stated that she wanted to achieve integration through schooling, work, and volunteer programs which she says will make Dutch easier to learn for migrants. By learning social skills through such activities, they can increase their chances of finding work.
The plans were leaked to the public and haven't yet been discussed in parliament. Migrants currently have to take a loan out to pay for language courses and many fail to reach the desired proficiency in Dutch.
Under previous integration minister Rita Verdonk, migrants had to pay for part of the language courses themselves. She was often referred to as "Iron Rita" for her hardline approach towards immigration.
Verdonk feels the leaked plans will be futile, saying that "you get exactly what we already had in the old situation regarding naturalization: people have to be stimulated, with the result - and we all know this only too well - that the people who have already lived for 12, 20 years in the Netherlands still don't speak any Dutch."
Migrant unemployment is a problem in the Netherlands. Many work in low-skilled, low-pay jobs.