Record investment in integration

Just in time for the election, the government plans to spend 1.7bn kronor to improve the integration of immigrants. The largest single such investment ever, according to integration minister, Jens Orback.

A significant proportion of the money will go to tempting local councils to receive the estimated 15,000 extra individuals who are expected to receive residence permits during 2006 as a result of the temporary aliens act. Local councils who either sign agreements to take on more immigrants, or who re-apply, can receive up to 25,000 kronor extra per person.

Interest has been low amongst many councils. The authorities reckon 27,000 new places are required this year. So far, 11,000 places are available in 172 councils.

Orback is critical of conservative-run councils who aren’t pulling their weight.

“I find my patience tried by parties who have spoken of a general amnesty to allow up to 100,000 individuals to stay, but then don’t want these people even when the numbers are substantially less. Representatives of the Liberals and Christian Democrats were almost in tears in parliament when the idea of an amnesty was rejected. When councils run by those parties don’t take any [immigrants], there’s something that doesn’t add up,” said Orback.

Danderyd and Vellinge are two councils to be named and shamed.

The remainder of the money, around 1bn kronor, is intended for a ten point programme to be implemented over the next few years. Most will go to employing 2,000 teachers in 100 schools with a large percentage of foreign-born pupils.

“These schools aren’t the worst. They are good schools, but they have the toughest challenges,” said Orback.

Some of the money is ear-marked for various work projects. Employment and financial independence are considered by Orback to be crucial for better integration.

Since the crises of the early 1990’s, he sees a gradual improvement in the employment situation for immigrants. Last year, unemployment amongst foreign-born residents in Sweden between the ages of 16 and 64 was 11%, compared to 5% for those born in Sweden. But at the same time, just over 30% of foreign-born were completely outside the job market, compared to just under 20% of those born in Sweden.