Sweden mulls mandatory classes for refugees

Sweden mulls mandatory classes for refugees
The government will shortly introduce reforms proposing that it be obligatory for all refugees arriving in the country to take part in a society orientation course to facilitate their establishment in Swedish society.

“Integration involves more than just self-support and language knowledge, it also involves feeling involved in and an affinity with society,” wrote Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni, from the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), in an article on her Ministry website, which was also printed in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper’s debate page.

“All people who live and work in Sweden must be familiar with the meaning of democracy, equality and respect for all people’s equal worth, and young people’s freedom to make their own life choices,” she wrote.

The government will shortly present a reform designed to speed up the process of newcomers’ establishment in the workplace. A large part of the reform will deal with the division of responsibility and governance of establishment efforts for people arriving for the first time in Sweden. But the reform will also deal with new arrivals feeling involved in and an affinity with their new country.

The minister suggests the reform is needed due to the changing nature of immigration to Sweden.

“Earlier immigrants were mostly work immigrants. They learned Swedish quickly and were integrated within Swedish society through their work colleagues. But in the last decades a much larger proportion of those who are granted permanent residence have come to Sweden seeking protection,” she wrote.

The inquiry – “Self responsibility – with professional support” – which is the basis for the proposed reform, emphasises the increased need for new immigrants to receive information about society. Accordingly, the government will shortly initiate a consultation to take forward the proposal and to consider the appropriate content, format and scope of the orientation course.

The reform represents a major overhaul of Sweden’s structures and policy relating to the integration of immigrants. The responsibility for educating immigrants about the traditions, rules and structure of Swedish society earlier rested with the language programme Swedish for Immigrants (‘svenska för invandrare’), or SFI, until this responsibility was transferred to county councils two years ago. SFI now only provides language tuition for new arrivals.

“The type of information that new arrivals receive therefore depends upon which county council they live in, and it is also unclear how many immigrants really take part in the society information sessions,” Sabuni wrote.

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