Beringen, meer dan mijn stad

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Nieuws: Europees project in verband met integratie

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Hieronder vindt u de tussenkomst van de burgemeester op de dialoog tussen de stad Beringen en de vertegenwoordigers van de stad Istanboel in verband met integratieprojecten, die in die stad in de nabije toekomst zelf opgezet worden. Ambtelijke vertegenwoordigers van enkele districten van Istanboel, zijnde Zeytinburnu, Bańücilar en Eminönü, zijn in de stad Beringen in kader van een Europees project om ervaring op te doen in verband met integratie. Istanboel kampt inderdaad nu ook met integratieproblemen van mensen die van het platteland komen alsmede van de Balkanstaten en de vroegere Sovjetrepublieken met een etnisch Turkse bevolking. Na haar tweedaags bezoek aan Beringen vertrekt de delegatie naar het district Kreuzberg in Berlijn om ook daar ervaring op te doen in verband met de aanpak van de integratie.

In de tussenkomst van de burgemeester is de nadruk gelegd op beleidskeuzes die moeten gemaakt worden om enig resultaat te kunnen behalen met een integratiebeleid, dat gestoeld is op rechten en plichten. De tekst van de tussenkomst is in het Engels omdat dit de gebruikte taal was van het overleg


Migrants in Beringen


On the 24st of april 2003 the local government of Beringen reflected on forty years of presence by the Turkish community in our province. In 1963 the first immigrant workers form Turkey arrived in Limburg. They came to work in the underground coalmines in Limburg.

The coalmines frequently suffered from a labour shortage. The province of Limburg had an agricultural population and the majority of this population worked in the argricultural sector. When we started the mine exploitation in 1920 it was hard to convince the population to accept work in these coalmines. The labour in the coalmines was hard, unhealthy and often dangerous and these elements scared off a lot of people.

In the early twenties the first group of immigrant workers arrived in the province of Limburg. They came from different countries : Poland, Chechoslovakia and Hungary. The First immigrant workers often started in the coalmines in the German Ruhr Area but moved to our region when the nazi's came to power in Germany. From the debut of the mine exploitation the miners came from different regions and countries and already in the early 1920's the mine communities were multicultural and Beringen was no exception.
In 1963 the Belgian government closed new bilateral agreements with Marocco and Turkey for the immigration of underground workers. These agreements got a massive response. In 1965 fifty percent of the underground miners were of foreign origin. The presence of the Turkish community in Beringen therefore dates from 1963. In 1974 an immigration stop was proclamed by the Belgian government but because of a broad interpretation of the legal term "reunification of the family" the number of immigrants in the communities of Limburg kept increasing after 1974. The number of Turkish inhabitants in 1990 was 3.830.

The mining communities in the province of Limburg alle became multicultural in demographic constellation in the course of the twentieth century. Next to the Belgians we have inhabitants with roots in Poland, Chechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey and Marocco. Approximately 10% of the 40.000 inhabitants of Beringen are of Turkish origin.

The experience has shown that the integration process takes a long time. To build a society of people with different ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds is a laborious process. The language is often the first barrier in the communication between Belgians and foreigners. Hence, the city of Beringen attached a huge importance on a profound knowledge by foreigners of the Dutch language. Foreigners can study Dutch at a regular school, at night school, basic education and the bureau of reception for newcomers and through initiatives taken by the Turkish community itself.

At present we have the third generation of people of Turkish origin in Beringen. Nevertheless in many Turkish families Turkish is still the language of communication in stead of Dutch. For that reason the question is raised if a profound knowledge of Turkish is desirable next to the knowledge of the Dutch language. We think that the knowledge of the Dutch language should suffice. Especially now it became certain that most of the people of Turkish origin will stay in Belgium permanently and Turkey is considered as their prefered holiday destination.

The integration issue in a multicultural society isn't an invention of this era. Belgium itself is a multicultural community of Dutch, French and German speaking people who each have their own government bodies.

The city of Beringen counts 50 nationalities. Over 6.000 inhabitants are of foreign ethnic origin. The Turkish and Italian community are the largest foreign communities in Beringen. It is not a simple task to get these different nationalities to live together.

Throughout the years everybody has had a say concerning integration. Everybody has its own interpretation of the concept of integration and how it has to be implemented, mandatory or not. Integration isn't synonymous with complete assimilation. As a local authority we face the following challenge : "To what extent can we build a society in which the different communities experience their ethnic, cultural and religious differences rather as a mutual enrichment than as a constant source of irritation and conflicts ?"

We all think that own education, cultural centers, libraries, socio-cultural structures for migrants will lead to volontary apartheid and the formation of getto's. This evolution to create own structures for migrants isn't the correct course of action although we get the impression that the Flemish and federal authorities are inclined to follow this way.

The migrant population is often considered as a specific target group that has to receive extra support and aid. We think that we have to work on the things that bind us rather than stress the things that divide us. We believe that a society isn't build by supporting and subsidize differences. A so called "target group" - policy isn't a good idea. The people do not accept discrimination and positive discrimination is often considered by the Flemish population as an inequal treatment.

Education is of vital importance for the integration of allochthones. A good degree is a guarantee for employment and an income in the future. On this level we are confronted with the learning arrears and linguistic problems of allochthone children.

De challenges of a multicultural society are numberous.

For example the social bottlenecks in Beringen are:
-lack of community work
-insufficient meetingplaces in the different estates
-no link between education and family
-educational arrears
-high unemployment rate
-concentration of migrants in underpriviliged estates
-possibilities for sports, games and recreation in the housing areas
--connection of all layers of the population to welfare and health organizations
-youth welfare work
-to get allochthones to progress into the stronger educational directions in secondary school and the following higher education
-to secure the connection of allochthone seniors with the existing offer of social services.

This elaborate list of needs and bottlenecks shows that integration in Beringen faces great challenges in the near future. Eventually integration in Beringen should lead to the dissapearance of the words "authochthone" and "allochthone" in our vocabulary and to replace them by the concept of "inhabitant of Beringen". This evolution demands that everyone accepts that equal rights are always linked with equal obligations.

Marcel Mondelaers
Mayor of Beringen