People from more than 170 countries live together in Antwerp, a multicultural city. In 2020 is expected that more than half of its inhabitants have a migrant background. But arriving in a different country is not an easy work.
Atlas, supported by Flanders Government, is the main organization in Belgium that helps migrant people integrating in the city, so they could get to live as a unique community.
Newcomers follow an integration course in which they attend Dutch classes. An assistant is assigned to each of them in order to help along one year. “It’s not like there are lots of organizations that have the authority to do something about integration”, says Frieke van Zundert, the general manager of the organization.
Despite this, these people face several problems during the process depending on their background and “the opportunities society gives them”. “We have an economic situation in which there are a lot of jobs that Flemish people don’t want to do anymore, so there is a possibility for them to work. But, when there is a crisis, those are the first people that are left out”, continues.
Making people aware of the problem is the first step towards integration. There is still a lot of work to do, she recognizes, that’s why Atlas needs to work on the image of migrants: “They don’t come here to take away our jobs, to rape our daughters or to steal money from us. They are people like you and I, people who have problems, who have children, who are searching for a better life“.
This is “a big process in which politicians and communication play a hug role”, but, it’s not enough, Miss Frieke recognizes, society needs to change.