Denmark’s ‘ghetto plan’ and the communities it targets

Denmark’s ‘ghetto plan’ and the communities it targets

At the top of every 12 months, the Danish authorities publishes a listing of what it classifies because the nation’s “ghettos”. There are at the moment 28.

Areas the place greater than 50 p.c of residents are immigrants or descendants of “non-Western countries” can be designated a “ghetto” based mostly on the next standards: revenue, proportion of these employed, ranges of schooling and proportion of individuals with felony convictions.  

Denmark is at the moment executing its controversial nationwide “ghetto plan” – One Denmark with out Parallel Societies: No Ghettos in 2030 – launched by the earlier authorities in March 2018, and now handed right into a set of harsh legal guidelines and a housing coverage.

This includes the bodily demolishment and transformation of low-income, largely Muslim neighbourhoods. Residents of those areas – working-class, immigrant and refugee communities – say the measures are geared toward containing in addition to dispersing them.

The time period “ghetto”, with its unfavorable connotations of festering crime, unemployment and dysfunction is a supply of anguish for residents who consider the plan stigmatises them additional whereas providing no enhancements to their situations. Anger, confusion and a sense of betrayal are mounting amongst these deemed to be residing in “ghettos”.

Residents of “ghettos” are actually topic to a distinct algorithm. Penalties for crimes could be doubled. Certain violations, for instance, that are usually finable offences might imply imprisonment.

Laws handed final March require kids from the age of 1 to spend a minimum of 25 hours per week in childcare to obtain obligatory coaching in “Danish values”. There was even a proposal from the far-right Danish People’s celebration that “ghetto children” ought to have a curfew of 8pm, though that was rejected by the parliament.

But maybe one of the vital insidious guidelines is that public housing in so-called “hard ghettos” can be restricted to solely 40 p.c of complete housing by 2030. This implies that public housing is now both being torn down, redeveloped or rented to non-public corporations. The worry is that 1000’s throughout Denmark might have to depart their houses. By some reviews, that quantity might be greater than 11,000 folks.

Poul Aaroe Pedersen, a spokesperson on the Ministry of Transport and Housing, which is overseeing the housing adjustments, mentioned in an e mail that the purpose “is to prevent parallel societies” by integrating “socially disadvantaged residential areas” with the encircling neighborhood via the event of various kinds of housing.

Pederson mentioned it’s not potential to offer a precise quantity for a way many individuals would want to maneuver.

According to lawyer Morten Tarp, two communities, one within the metropolis of Helsingor and the opposite within the city of Slagelse, whose residents he’s working to help, will obtain the nation’s first housing contract termination notices in early 2020.

Mjolnerparken, a so-called “hard ghetto”, is a four-block housing advanced located in Norrebro, a vigorous, multicultural and gentrifying district in Copenhagen.

There, 260 residencies can be bought. Residents have been knowledgeable via the housing affiliation that they must transfer and are being inspired to relocate to different areas. Many are unsure about what is going to occur subsequent.

We visited Mjolnerparken and spoke to 4 residents about how the laws are affecting their lives and their fears for the long run.

Lisbeth Saugmann, 76, pensioner: ‘I’m being forcibly relocated’


Lisbeth Saugmann grew up and spent most of her life in low-income housing, referred to by some as ‘ghettos’ [Jamila Versi/Al Jazeera] 

Lisbeth has lived within the residence for aged folks in Mjolnerparken for nearly a decade. She has been knowledgeable by the housing affiliation that she must transfer.

“I used to be born in Arhus and spent most of my life in public housing and shared homes. Then eight years in the past, I made a decision to maneuver right here, as a result of my household all moved to Copenhagen. I wished to reside with others, as a result of, you understand, whenever you’re new in a spot it may be a bit overwhelming and the older you get it may be more durable to make new mates. So I used to be joyful to discover a place right here. 

“I’ve been very joyful right here. I actually like Norrebro. I like that it is such a mixture of folks. I’m very glad to not be, sorry to say it like this, residing with a bunch of wealthy as**oles.

“We came upon concerning the ‘ghetto plan’ when all of the politicians and police got here right here, however they by no means spoke to us. They wish to promote Mjolnerparken, however there are different “ghettos” within the nation the place they wish to tear down wholesome homes simply because they do not just like the folks residing there.

“I used to be a kindergarten trainer. I’ve dealt rather a lot with youngsters that weren’t very stimulated, however that has nothing to do with pores and skin color. You have to make use of different strategies to unravel it. All the analysis will let you know this [plan] will not do something.

“In the opposite housing associations the place I lived, we had the identical [social] issues, however everybody was white. They [the authorities] went in they usually gave extra alternatives for jobs and that helped.

“I see it [the plan] as one thing that is harming folks, reducing at emotional ties and economically, it is also only a waste of cash. That’s how it’s for individuals who do not earn rather a lot, or are sick, or aren’t indirectly part of the system.

“People are very unhappy. I feel friendships are going to crumble, and I feel it’s going to expose some vulnerabilities from people who find themselves already struggling, particularly in the event that they’re instructed, ‘You cannot reside right here as a result of we do not such as you.’

“I’m being forcibly relocated. In the seniors’ residence, we have been capable of get affirmation that we can’t be separated as a bunch. And we are the group that is white. I feel that is been a part of the explanation we’re getting totally different therapy than the others.

“But we nonetheless need to pay a lot increased hire than we will afford. Especially now that I’m getting older, how will I pay for my medication?

“It’s a nightmare. Everyone’s so confused about it. It makes me really feel unsafe. People are speaking about it on a regular basis, even whenever you go to take the trash out.

“This place goes to be refurbished they usually’ll promote it for thrice the worth to wealthy folks. 

“I don’t know what a ‘parallel society’ is. I mean, maybe there are different realities. Maybe it’s the rich towns versus here, for example, because they live a completely different reality than we do. I don’t think there’s any parallel society here.”

Asif Mehmood, 52, taxi driver: ‘Here, you by no means sleep hungry, you are by no means alone’

Asif Mehmood

‘They’re making us transfer right here and right here and there. I really feel like they’re kicking us out of Denmark,’ Asif Mehmood says [Jamila Versi/Al Jazeera]

Asif got here to Denmark from Pakistan on the age of 20 and moved to Mjolnerparken together with his spouse and daughter in 1994. They raised their three daughters there. They have been instructed they’ve to depart and have acquired a proposal of latest housing.

“I actually like Mjolnerparken. Here, you by no means sleep hungry, you are by no means alone. If you neglect your pockets whenever you go to the shop, somebody will allow you to take the meals dwelling, as a result of we all know one another right here. You can by no means do this within the metropolis centre. We reside in the very best place you could be – there is a prepare station, bus stations. My spouse is unwell. We reside subsequent to 3 totally different hospitals, all 5 minutes away. That makes it very straightforward.  

“I’m very depending on folks right here. If I’m at work and my spouse or daughters have a small drawback, I can name one in all my mates to return assist out. It’s an enormous help community.

“People can name it what they need, however it’s not a ‘ghetto’. They’re [the government] those who constructed this place and now they’re beginning to name it a ‘ghetto’. That’s not truthful. Now that it is turn into this hip place, they need folks to maneuver out they usually use criminality as an excuse.

Then they’re going to transfer us out from Copenhagen to the countryside and, finally, they’re going to simply kick us in a foreign country.

Asif Mehmood, taxi driver

“If there’s crime, let’s repair it. But with this plan, they wish to tear down the buildings.

“Just as a result of all of us have a distinct pores and skin color and put on totally different garments does not imply we’re criminals.

“There are locations like Allerod, with rather more crime than right here, however they do not name it a “ghetto” as a result of they’re white. It does not make sense.

“Now they need us all to maneuver to Wilders Plads [in Copenhagen] and pay double the hire there. So will not Wilders Plads turn into a ‘ghetto’ if all the identical folks transfer there? And what about these of us who cannot afford double the hire?

“Then they’re going to transfer us out from Copenhagen to the countryside and, finally, they’re going to simply kick us in a foreign country, like Inger Stojberg [far-right politician and ex-immigration minister] desires. But excuse me, we’re 99 p.c Danish residents residing right here. Even if they do not suppose we glance Danish.

“Now Bo-Vita [the housing association] has been sending us these brochures saying, ‘M is so joyful, as a result of now that he is moved, he lastly has a settee.’ What the hell? You’ve seen that I’ve not one however two sofas. They want to seek out me a spot that I can afford and that has an elevator for my spouse.

“I’m lucky. I make an OK amount. We’ve gotten a new housing offer but it’s on the other end of town and far from the hospitals. And what about everyone else? They aren’t telling us anything. Everyone is very uncertain.”

Anonymous, 45: ‘We’re going to struggle to remain’

One 45-year-old lady was interviewed anonymously. She arrived in Denmark as a Palestinian refugee when she was a young person.  

“I used to be born in Lebanon in 1974. In 1988 we moved to Denmark. First, we had been within the asylum centre, after which we moved to Humlebaek [a coastal town] and lived in our circle of relatives dwelling.

“But we did not prefer it. My mother and father had been lonely. So we utilized to return to Mjolnerparken. First my husband, my new-born and I moved in, then my mother and father moved in subsequent to us.

“We moved right here to be in a social place. We actually like being right here. My 5 kids grew up right here with the opposite second-generation youngsters. My oldest little one is 25 and the youngest seven. The oldest two have their very own enterprise and my daughters are finding out public administration. 

“I work in a canteen, however I’ve utilized for an internship in an workplace as a substitute. I do not actually like working within the kitchen. And I’m a carer for my mum. 

“Children cannot discover work in the event that they reside in Mjolnerparken. Lots of children from outdoors the world – faces we do not know – come and make issues. Everything is stacked in opposition to the boys from round right here. They do not feel Danish sufficient, they’re spoken all the way down to, they do not get jobs, so then they need to do one thing else. 

I felt Danish till not too long ago. Now I really feel I’m not part of this society.


“When we moved right here it was peaceable. Then the ethnic Danes moved out and all of a sudden it [got] a a lot worse status than it’s.

“I’ve lived right here 25 years. I feel I’d be depressed if I moved from right here, as a result of I’ve so many good reminiscences – unhealthy reminiscences too, in fact. It’s not good for kids to maneuver. Especially for those who’re pressured to do it. 

“I felt Danish till not too long ago. Now I really feel I’m not part of this society. The politicians created their ‘parallel society’, with the unhealthy status they’ve given Mjolnerparken in order that ethnic Danes do not wish to reside right here. It’s the fault of the housing affiliation that they moved in so many immigrant households and now they’re saying it is an issue.

“But it does not make sense. Blocks 1 and four aren’t being bought, so they’ll nonetheless be a ‘ghetto’. But they are going to be renovated, so some households will in all probability not come again, as a result of the hire can be costlier.

You get three new housing gives and for those who do not say sure, you aren’t getting any assist. But we’re not going to use for gives. We are going to sue both the Copenhagen municipality or the state which is administrating the plan. The legal professionals [who are helping us] are figuring that out. We are greater than 50 residents who do not wish to transfer and who will sue. If we fail, I’ll know we have tried.”

Samiah Qasim, 27, social employee: ‘They do not see me as Danish any extra’

Samiah Qasim

‘Lately I do not really feel so secure any extra,’ Samiah Qasim says [Jamila Versi/Al Jazeera]

Samiah’s mother and father are initially from Palestine. Her instant household just isn’t having to depart their dwelling, however her parents-in-law are. When her daughter is one, she must start obligatory classes in “Danish values”. Samiah not too long ago organised a “lets ghettogether” celebration to ask folks to return and see Mjolnerparken. 

“I used to be born and bred in Blagardsgade [also in Norrebro], which is a former ‘ghetto’. I’ve lived in Mjolnerparken for six years with my husband and my two kids. His mother and father reside right here too. My husband has a grasp’s from Copenhagen Business School.

“I actually preferred rising up in Blagardsgade. I felt actually secure. I used to be very sceptical about shifting to Mjolnerparken due to unfavorable issues I had heard from the media, however we wanted a spot to remain so we took it, and truly, I’ve turn into very joyful about it.

“There’s neighborhood. You have all of the outlets and transport you want and there are low cost flats. The solely drawback is the gangs. 

“We used to have a gang drawback in Blagardsgade, however then got here extra outlets and cafes. It grew to become actually cosy and inexperienced. Suddenly there was a number of exercise for the boys – golf equipment and internships and job gives, in order that they did not have time to step into the gang space. That made an enormous distinction. 

“I do not suppose they are often extra fallacious concerning the ‘ghetto’ legal guidelines. Firstly, there’s nothing fallacious with the buildings which they’re promoting or tearing down. It’s the those that reside in these buildings who’re struggling. And that is the place you might want to use the sources to offer help like they did in Blagardsgade and do preventative work.

My daughter is six months previous and I simply acquired a letter saying that since I’m from a ‘ghetto’ space, I’ve to enroll to ship my little one to this establishment for 25 hours per week to study ‘Danish values’.

Samiah Qasim

I really feel I’ve to struggle. How can we alter this regulation and even get it eliminated?

Lately, typically, I worry {that a} loopy individual will push me on to the prepare tracks simply because I’ve acquired a scarf, and all of a sudden they do not see me as Danish any extra. It wasn’t like that eight years in the past. The politicians have simply created hate, worry and division, and that is very horrifying to witness. 

My daughter is six months previous and I simply acquired a letter saying that since I’m from a ‘ghetto’ space, I’ve to enroll to ship my little one to this establishment for 25 hours per week to study ‘Danish values’.

If we refuse, we do not get any advantages or little one help. The solely exception is that if the municipality steps in. So if I say my little one just isn’t prepared on the age of 1 however can be prepared at one 12 months and three months, it turns into society’s resolution.

This has nothing to do with me as a mom. It is predicated merely on my tackle. If I moved over to the opposite facet of the street, I’d not be having any of those issues.

I do not really feel this regulation makes us really feel included – it is the alternative. You’re saying to youngsters from a younger age that they don’t seem to be adequate, that they need to do additional to be accepted by society.

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