What does integration mean?
Integration is a widely-used term with respect to migrants, but what exactly does it mean?
Firstly, it is a two-way process:
- for migrants, integrating entails effort to understand, adapt and become familiar with the host country and live there completely independently. In particular, this involves learning French and understanding and respecting the rights and responsibilities associated with life in Belgium.
- for the host society, it entails ensuring that migrants’ rights are respected and that they are treated in the same way as Belgians, particularly in their dealings with government authorities and on the job market, and developing a policy to encourage integration efforts by organising training, guidance or permanent education.
Integration means participating fully in cultural, economic, civic and social life in Belgium.
Rather than a particular “model” that must be followed, there is a set of principles to be observed, on both sides: individual freedom, equality – gender equality in particular – and non-discrimination, freedom of sexual orientation, the right to privacy, religious freedom, children’s rights, the observance of rules governing social life (highway code, rules on the roads and neighbourhood relations, civic rules), and equal treatment in their dealings with government bodies.
Knowledge of French is essential to participating in civic and cultural life, facilitating social interaction and achieving your professional plans.
- French lessons are organised in Wallonia and Brussels by numerous organisations (such as schools, municipal authorities, associations etc.). The terms of enrolment and course content vary from one organisation to another. Some of the courses are free.
In Wallonia and Brussels, since 2013 the local authorities have run settlement programmes to assist new migrants in French-speaking Belgium with the steps they need to take.
Why an accompaniment service for newcomers?
In your dealings with the local, regional or federal authorities, depending on how much progress you have already made settling in, you will be given the contact details for a support service for new migrants in your region. The support services will provide you with information and guidance as soon as you arrive in Belgium.
They will help you locate the services you need. You can make an appointment with the service to obtain all the information you need to set up home in Belgium.
What exactly is the programme?
The support services have put together a programme which helps you resolve any difficulties you encounter in connection with your recent arrival and point you towards various services that are there to help you integrate.
Each region of Belgium has its own programme and offers a variety of services. For more information on the programme, see the section “What does the programme involve?”.
What does the programme involve?
What does the programme involve?
The programme starts with an individual welcome meeting with an advisor who works for the service.
- Many of the support service advisors speak several languages. A number of them have themselves been new migrants and have encountered the same obstacles and questions as you.
At these meetings, the advisor will help you:
- assess your situation and draw up a list of your needs: language, accommodation, income, healthcare, schooling for children, employment, training etc.
- undertake the necessary steps,
- find out about the rights and obligations of all citizens living in Belgium.
- During a programme, you will learn a lot about Belgian society: such as, where and how to find work, where to turn when you are ill, where your children can attend school and so on.
- The programme is free.
- The support services offer tests to assess your French language ability. They will, if necessary, tell you about the French language courses offered by state-approved organisations.
In Brussels, the support services offering the programme are called “Bureaux d’Accueil pour Primo-Irritants”, or ”BAPA” for short (new migrant settlement offices).
To find out more about the BAPA, see the section “New migrant settlement offices in Brussels”
The BAPA’s role is to organise settlement programmes for new migrants in Brussels. It provides the necessary information and support to enable them to live independently.
In Wallonia, they are called Centres régionaux d’intégration (regional integration centres), or “CRI” for short.
To find out more about the settlement programme in Wallonia, visit the Social Action and Health portal of the Region of Wallonia.
See the “Settlement programme in Wallonia” section for general information.
In Brussels, there is also a Flemish programme. This Flemish programme is organised by the BON (Brussel Onthaal) settlement office
- a basic Dutch course,
- an introduction to Flemish and Belgian society,
- help finding a job or training,
- information on culture and leisure facilities,
- a civic integration programme
- individual meetings with an advisor.
Visit the BON’s website for more information about their services: http://bon.be
Can the programme help you find training?
The advisors will help you find suitable courses.
Your training needs will be documented in the agreement you sign with the office.
This agreement details individual monitoring and the content of the training. Depending on your situation, it will, for instance, provide for French lessons, citizenship training and career or professional training guidance.
The advisors will give you the contact details of organisations who can assist you with your needs.
You will receive a certificate upon completion of the programme.
Under what conditions can you take part in the program?
- you have to be registered at the municipality
- you must have been living in Belgium for less than three years
- you must have a residence permit for more than three months
The local authority will inform you about these services. You will also find a list of a service close to you in the chapter Advisory Informations
Settlement programme in Wallonia
What is the settlement programme for new migrants in Wallonia?
The aim of the settlement programme is to welcome and support new foreign residents in Wallonia, help them acquire basic knowledge on how society functions and social relations in Belgium and facilitate their integration into the country. When registering with the municipal authority, new foreign nationals receive an information document and are given the details of the nearest settlement office to their home. The settlement programme currently comprises a welcome module (compulsory phase) and settlement agreement (which is currently non-compulsory).
The entire settlement programme is free and is run by the Centres Régionaux d’Intégration (regional integration centres, CRI for short).
So that language is not an obstacle, the services of an interpreter are available; interpreters are provided by a social interpretation service approved by the region of Wallonia.
The programme is divided into two phases:
The welcome module (compulsory phase)
The welcome module is the first phase of the settlement programme. It is compulsory for some categories of new migrants. The welcome module comprises
- a free and individual social assessment, the purpose of which is to determine the individual’s personal and professional programme,
- information on rights and obligations in Belgium,
- guidance on social and administrative aspects, depending on the needs identified.
- language training
- social & professional guidance
- citizenship training
The settlement agreement (non-compulsory phase)
A settlement agreement can be signed between the new migrant and the regional integration centre and assures new migrants of the following, free services:
The maximum duration of a settlement agreement is two years and the regional integration centre (CRI) is in charge of monitoring and assessment.
The settlement programme is also tailored to each individual and provides guidance in line with the identified needs (language, work, accommodation, family, health, leisure etc.). Wallonia wishes to ensure that everyone has access to proper support and assistance, to help them integrate into their new environment. Therefore, the entire programme is available to all migrants, subject to availability of spaces.
Who is eligible for the settlement programme for new migrants?
New migrants are defined as: any foreign national who has been living in Belgium for less than three years and who holds a residence permit that is valid for more than three months, with the exception of citizens of one of the Member States of the European Union, the European Economic Area, Switzerland and their family members.
The Walloon Social Action and Health Code defines the persons who must follow the welcome module of the settlement programme and those who are exempt.
New migrant settlement office in Brussels (BAPA)
In July 2013, the French-speaking parliament of Brussels adopted a decree on the settlement programme for new migrants living in the Brussels-Capital Region (BCR). The settlement programme is aimed at “all foreign nationals aged 18 or over who have ‘been legally resident in Belgium for less than three years and are entered in the register of foreign nationals of a municipality of BCR, who hold a residence permit valid for more than three months.”
The BAPA’s role is to organise settlement programmes for new migrants in Brussels. It provides the necessary information and support to enable them to live independently. It helps them achieve social emancipation by providing training in citizenship and social customs in an urban and distinctly multicultural environment. It encourages new migrants to attend French courses and other training courses.
The programme completed by new migrants is voluntary and completely free of charge. Specifically, it has two components:
- The primary component involves a welcome (information on the settlement programme, rights and obligations), a social assessment and a language assessment.
- The secondary component takes the form of a settlement and support agreement. It provides the basis for an individual support programme and the option of attending training: language training (learning the French language or literacy) and citizenship training providing basic information on how public institutions work, social relations in Belgium and the host society.
Beneficiaries of the programme receive a certificate of completion of the primary component and, if appropriate, the secondary component of the settlement programme. The new migrant settlement offices are responsible for creating the programme and issuing the certificates of completion.
There are two approved offices:
ASBL VIA has two offices:
Schaerbeek, Rue Kessels 14, 1030 Brussels
Molenbeek, Boulevard Léopold II 170, 1080 Brussels
Director: Janaki Decleire, J.email@example.com,
+32 (0) 2 563 52 63
ASBL BAPA BXL
ASBL BAPA BXL,
Brussels, Boulevard Anspach 1 bte 24, 1000 Brussels
Director: Christelle Sermon, Christelle.Sermon@brucity.be ,