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11/1 Jurists want to stay in Oudemanhuispoort

8/2 Mayor’s portrait

8/2 Websites for social cohesion

7/2 Spreading tourism proceeds with difficulty

7/2 GroenLinks on districts: Be a man

6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

5/2 The truth about integration

4/2 Wilders has little support on Amsterdam

3/2 Elite involved in neighbourhood

2/2 Johnnie Walker avoids taxes in Amsterdam

1/2 Rotterdam to tinker with district councils as well

31/1 Wooden rowing boats to disappear from Amstel

31/1 ZeeburgTV launched

27/1 Privacy activists to mess up loyalty card system

27/1 A few were still coughing, but that was an act

27/1 Chrisis in de Baarsjes

26/1 Youth have positive view of districts

24/1 Action groups call for Carmel and Jaffa boycott

24/1 PvdA members dismiss plan for districts

23/1 KLM takes on crisis with new uniform

23/1 District office not squatted

21/1 Merge districts

20/1 Closing squat bar Vrankrijk not necessary

20/1 Cleaners welcome new Schiphol director

18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

18/1 What is the right size for a district?

17/1 PvdA Oost against fewer districts

16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

14/1 Youth for Christ to republish vacancies

13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

13/1 New Youth for Christ contoversy

11/1 Social cohesion initiative raises eyebrows

10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

9/1 Supermarket coupon fraud thwarted

9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

7/1 Snow

7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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‘Secretive integration week’

23 March 2007 - Immigrants complain that they receive almost no information about integration courses, although they can be fined if they do not get a diploma in time. The municipality says there is no cause for concern.

As of 1 January, a new Integration Act is in power. In principle, immigrants must now arrange their own integration courses and pass a test. However, some groups will be offered a course by the municipality and will only have to pay 270 euro.

At the discussion forum of the Foreign Partner Association (SBP) people complain that it is almost impossible to obtain information on how Amsterdam is going to organise the integration courses. When they call an information line, they would be told to wait until 1 April when districts have set up their information centres.

“I almost felt sorry for the lady answering the telephone because she also felt so powerless”, wrote Nadia at the forum. Arthur Zielhorst, head of communication at the Social Development Department (DMO), said the complaints about the provision of information do not sound familiar.

Today, an integration week with the motto ‘Integration. Another way of saying Participation’ has been launched, but this campaign primarily targets people who are not legally obliged to follow an integration course. Immigrants who are obliged to follow such a course will be approached personally.

Wanda Pelt, board member of the SBP and district council member for GroenLinks in ZuiderAmstel, said that almost no-one was informed in advance about the campaign: a ‘very secretive Integration Week’. This would be illustrative of the lack of information about the subject.

For example, marriage immigrants are asking themselves whether they will be provided with a course by the municipality, or have to make their own arrangements. DMO’s Zielhorst: “You always have to consider the individual case. So I am not going to say that it will never happen that people get no offer, but that will not by definition always be the case for this group”.

He expects that the group that will not be offered a course will be small. “Most people will qualify for an offer from the municipality through one arrangement or another”.

The new integration courses should have been introduced by 1 January, but Amsterdam was granted respite until 1 April. Immigrants are concerned that they will now become pressed for time. If they do not obtain a diploma within 3.5 or 5 years (depending on their situation), they will be fined. In addition, they cannot obtain an independent residence permit without a diploma.

Zielhorst says there is not reason for concern: “there is ample time to meet that obligation”. Also, immigrants can already begin following language courses. However, Pelt finds that this group must be granted a respite. She is bringing this under the attention of politicians in the Hague.

According to Pelt, the problems have been caused in part by former minister Rita Verdonk’s insistence on introducing the new Integration Act in a hurry. However, she finds that there are municipalities that do better than Amsterdam, such as Utrecht and Rotterdam.

For example, the latter municipality would make much more use of volunteer organisations.

Incidentally, magazine de Groene Amsterdammer reports that ‘reintegration bureaus’ - companies that are commissioned to provide support to jobseekers - are now trying to obtain a share of the market for integration courses. They have no special expertise on that terrain, but they are ‘very apt at winning complex tenders’.

In Amsterdam, contracts for integration courses will be placed at the end of this month. Zielhorst cannot say whether any reintegration bureaus are among the candidates. Earlier this year, the local accounting office published a very critical report on the work of reintegration bureaus in Amsterdam.


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