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INTEGRATION

Refugees staying put in problem spots

A Swedish government project focused on enticing refugees to leave problem-ridden areas in Sweden's big cities has failed to achieve its goals. After two years, just 286 people have made use of the scheme, according to figures released by the Swedish Migration Board.

“While it seems to me that there are a lot more people who could probably benefit from moving, I realize it’s very difficult when you’ve put down roots,” Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni told news agency TT.

The Migration Board received 6 million kronor ($830,000) over the course of 2008 and 2009 to stimulate outward movement from areas with heavy refugee populations, housing shortages, and high unemployment.

With new arrivals gravitating towards areas populated by family and friends, politicians in Malmö and Södertälje in particular have previously voiced concerns that their infrastructures cannot withstand a further influx of refugees.

But despite the relocation project’s relatively low take-up level, Tomas Norberg from the Stockholm County Administrative Board’s integration division urged observers to consider the lives behind the numbers.

“If you look at the Migration Board’s figures, this appears to be a non-functioning operation. But in reality it is a very important operation that helps an awful lot of people improve their situation,” he said.

Furthermore, a survey carried out jointly by the respective county boards and the migration board indicates that many more refugees have moved than suggested by the relocation project’s figures.

The government has previously indicated that the system for the reception and integration of refugees will undergo a major overhaul in December. Most significantly, the employment agency is to have its powers extended in a bid to encourage refugees to move to areas where jobs and accommodation are in plentiful supply as soon as they arrive in the country.

Nyamko Sabuni could not say whether the current project would continue to run concurrently with the proposed changes.

EDUCATION

Sweden considers expanding mother tongue education

More students should study their mother tongue in Swedish schools, according to a proposal delivered to the government.

Sweden considers expanding mother tongue education
File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT
Students in Swedish schools who have a parent or legal guardian whose native language is something other than Swedish are offered courses to help them strengthen their skills in the other language. 
 
Roughly 280,000 students are eligible for this education but only approximately 170,000 are actively participating in the courses. 
 
According to Nihad Bunar, a professor of youth studies at Stockholm University who has been appointed by the government to address this issue, part of the reason the participation is so low is that the mother tongue courses are often held at the conclusion of the regular school day. 
 
“The consequences of this are obvious: tired students who have competing free-time activities. There is also a general perception that the subject is not as important as other school subjects,” Bunar said. 
 
Additionally, schools are not required to offer mother tongue classes if there are fewer than five students who would participate in the classes. 
 

 

 
A commission report that has been submitted to the government calls for making mother tongue education a more integrated part of the school day and offering it to smaller groups. The report also suggests offering the classes via remote learning, as a lack of qualified teachers in other languages is also a significant problem. 
 
The report points out that students who are given the opportunity to develop their mother tongue also tend to develop better Swedish language skills and perform better in school all-around. 
 
Education Minister Gustav Fridolin welcomed the report’s recommendations. 
 
“Studying one’s mother tongue can strengthen learning in all students. Therefore, more students should receive mother tongue education and the quality of the education and the curriculum should be strengthened,” he said in a government press release. 
 
The largest languages in mother tongue education in Sweden are Arabic, Somali, English, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Persian, Kurdish, Spanish, Finnish, Albanian and Polish.
 
The Local would like to hear from parents whose children are involved in a mother tongue programme at their local school. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’d like to participate in a follow-up article. 
 
The recommendations on mother tongue education come just a few months after a report carried out by OECD at the request of the Swedish government, suggested that Sweden can and must do much more to help immigrant children perform better at school
 
That study noted that 61 percent of first-generation immigrant students do “not attain baseline academic proficiency”. The number decreases to 43 percent for second-generation immigrant students and that 19 percent differential is well above the OECD average of 11 percents. 
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