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Sweden launches integration policy reform

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Sweden launches integration policy reform
13:31 CET+01:00
The Swedish government has launched a "sweeping" reform of integration policy, shifting the main responsibility for immigrant "establishment" in the country on the Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen).

"We will move from a handholding mentality where people from the other countries have been considered weak individuals to a focus on people quickly finding a job," integration minister Erik Ullenhag said on Wednesday.

Ullenhag recognised that the system has had its faults when welcoming new arrivals to Sweden.

"We thus need a system which strengthens the new arrivals' possibilities to succeed during their first period in Sweden," he said.

In presenting the reform sub-titled "self-obligation with professional help”, Ullenhag underlined that Sweden ”shall continue to be an open and tolerant society”.

The reform comes into force on Wednesday and promises the ”most radical changes to Swedish integration policy in 25 years”.

According to the reform, the Public Employment Service will take over responsibility from municipalities for coordinating establishment efforts. The Service will together with the individual immigrants develop a personal establishment plan to ease the move into work and into society.

The government has introduced a new state remuneration which is equal for all new arrivals regardless of where in the country they reside and dependent on participation in various establishment programmes, which will include a course in society orientation.

Erik Ullenhag furthermore argued on Wednesday that the government needs to review legislation covering the wearing of the niqab headscarf in schools, following a decision by the Equality Ombudsman (DO) that ruled a ban to be in contravention of anti-discrimination laws.

According to the ruling, "kicking a student out of class simply because she was wearing a niqab, without taking into account the specific circumstances of her participation, violates the law against discrimination,” Equality Ombudsman Katri Linna wrote in an opinion article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Ullenhag is not however at ease with DO's interpretation of the law, the newspaper reported.

”The Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) and I think that we should have a regulatory framework in Sweden which enables a rector or teacher to be able to refuse to allow full-body clothing.”

Liberal Party leader, Jan Björklund in the summer called for a ban on the niqab in schools, but the party is currently not in agreement with its Alliance coalition partners on the issue.

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