Crash course on civic integration for Ukrainian refugees in Flanders
In addition to Dutch lessons, Ukrainian refugees can now follow a “crash course” in social orientation, the office of Flemish minister for Home Affairs and Civic Integration Bart Somers announced on Thursday. The minister visited the Antwerp integration agency Atlas to see how this is done in practice.
Together with some thirty Ukrainian refugees, Somers participated in an information session titled ‘Living in Flanders’. “These people are given all the basic information they need to get started in our society at an accelerated pace. Just think of the importance of knowing Dutch, finding work, information about education and health, and explanations about the rights and duties in Flanders”, Somers commented.
The recently reformed Flemish integration policy consists of four pillars: lessons in Dutch, lessons in social orientation, guidance towards work and building a local network through volunteer work or a so-called “buddy programme”. Newcomers with a permanent residence permit are obliged to follow this integration programme, Somers’ cabinet said in a press release. Ukrainian refugees get a specific (but temporary) status that can be extended up to 3 years. Afterwards, they have to apply for a permanent residence permit. According to the Flemish government, many of them hope to return to their home country as soon as possible and some have already returned. However, since it is impossible to predict how long this conflict will last, Flanders has developed a quick course in civic integration “tailored to the needs of the Ukrainian refugees”.
The crash course “gives Ukranian refusees more opportunities now that they are forced to stay in our country.”
“Nobody can predict today which direction the war in Ukraine will take, or what the future of Ukrainian refugees in our society will look like. That does not mean we should wait and see and leave them to their fate”, Somers explains the need for a quick integration course. The new crash course “consists of individual coaching, Dutch lessons and information sessions on the rights and obligations in our society” and “gives them more opportunities now that they are forced to stay in our country.”
According to figures provided by the Flemish government, 1.620 Ukrainians have already received individual coaching, 2.278 attended the ‘Living in Flanders’ information sessions, 1.058 Ukrainians were guided towards Dutch lessons and 912 interpreter assignments were carried out. Initial funds have been made available to offer the new civic integration crash course course to 10.000 refugees. This number can be expanded in the future if necessary.
Flemish minister of Civic Integration Bart Somers during his visit to the Atlas agency for integration in Antwerp. © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM