|Muslim ghettos (the holes) in Denmark.|
In Denmark, the word "ghetto" is a legal designation typically applied to a neighborhood with more than 1,000 residents, meeting at least two of the following three criteria (though additional criteria are sometimes also applied):
Political leaders refer to these areas as "holes in Denmark's map," where Danish language and values are lost to generation after generation of residents. Currently, there are 25 ghettos in Denmark, scattered throughout the country. Of the 60,000 people living in these areas, two-thirds are from non-Western countries including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Somalia.
Because these neighborhoods are dominated by apartment buildings with cheap rents, refugees on "integration support" have often been placed there by public authorities. But many immigrants choose to live there on their own.
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen says that while the number of first- and second-generation, non-Western immigrants has grown from 50,000 in 1980 to almost 500,000 today, "people with the same problems have clumped together, [and] we have let it go, perhaps with the naïve idea that integration would happen on its own over time, because this is such a great country with so many possibilities... But it hasn't happened. The problem has grown."
It's not the first time the government has launched a strategy to abolish ghettos. In fact, there have been several in the last two decades. But rather than issuing broad-brush decrees, as has been tried in the past, this time 13 of the plan's 22 initiatives apply only to ghettos or similarly defined "vulnerable areas," and the people who live there.
The strategy includes four areas of focus: physical redevelopment, control over who is allowed to live in these neighborhoods, crime abatement and education. The overarching goal is for these areas to become more attractive to ethnic Danes, while non-Western immigrants will disperse into other, more mixed neighborhoods.
Some of the more controversial initiatives include a plan to double the normal punishment for crimes committed in the ghettos, and a requirement that children living in vulnerable areas start attending daycare for at least 30 hours a week as soon as they turn 1.
Critics argue that in trying to protect Danish values, these targeted regulations will undercut one of the most important: equality before the law.
A few days after the plan's release, Idil Ahmed emerges from a supermarket in the city of Kolding. In this market, located in the heart of one of the city's two designated ghettos, the shelves are lined with za'atar, okra, makdous — imports that would be hard to find in a typical Danish grocery store. Ahmed hesitates a moment before putting down her three bags.
She says she arrived in Denmark from Somalia several decades ago, at age 17. Speaking in Danish, she explains that at first, she felt welcome here, perhaps because immigrants were less visible then. But recently, the tone has changed.
Ahmed says she hasn't read the entire government plan, but she understands the premise: one set of rules for the rest of Denmark and a different set for her and her neighbors. "You must do this, you must do that," she says. "What they mean is: 'Go home.'"
Ahmed says she's considering it, even though she has a job and three grown sons, all born in Denmark. "Even though I came as a child," she says, "I think, 'This is a bad feeling. I cannot grow old in this country.'"
Take Finn Nørbæk, an ethnic Dane who lives in the same area. He says he likes it there and has never had any problems — this particular ghetto is known as one of the safest. Still, he says, sometimes he does think there are too many immigrants living in one place, and some of them seem to have nothing to do.
He points to a tall young man entering the shop. "See him over there?" he says, lowering his voice. "He doesn't do anything. He just gets money. They just want money."
Even opponents of the plan, who tend to favor a more carrot-based approach, agree that unemployment is a very serious problem in Denmark's ghettos. According to the government, a third of non-Western immigrants have been out of work or school for four of the last five years.
That said, what may be most surprising about this plan is how little criticism it faces, especially from the country's largest opposition party, the center-left Social Democrats.
It's part of a growing European trend that is particularly evident in Denmark: Social Democrats are taking a harder line on immigration as they try to win back working-class voters who have veered toward nationalism.
Shortly after President Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016, Danish Social Democrat leader Mette Frederiksen crafted a prescient Facebook post: "We have to admit that the people he speaks to are feeling heard for the first time in a long time, and have been missing a voice that puts words on their fears and frustrations."
Back in the Kolding ghetto, Ahmed Said, who has lived in Denmark for 15 years, says he now sees those fears expressed constantly. "Every single morning, you listen to the radio or you read the media, it's just about us [the immigrants]. All the time. 'We shall do this, we shall do that.' Why don't they just say 'get out'? I think that would be better," he says. "People are tired of this. We are tired of this."
Said says ultimately it doesn't matter whether the government uses carrots or sticks. Gesturing toward the high rises all around, he says that until Danes take a hard look in the mirror, nothing will change. "Twenty-five years ago, the people living here, they were all Danish people, white Danish people," he says.
He points in the direction of a former school building and explains how, as foreign children began to fill the classrooms, Danish children moved out. Eventually, the school was shut down.
Under the new plan, daycare centers accepting more than 30 percent of their children from vulnerable areas would also be shut down — though, at the same time, the plan stipulates that children not living in a vulnerable area cannot be forced to attend a daycare center connected to one.
"If they do it again, and they move Somalis to another place where there are only Danish people living, they're going to do the same, the Danish," Said says. "They're going to leave." If integration is actually the goal, he says, it has to be a two-way street.
Though the formation of societies-within-societies in European countries, sometimes called “no-go zones,” has been a slowly growing problem for decades, the growth of those areas has been fueled significantly by the mass influx of Muslim migrants and refugees in recent years.
One of the biggest problems stemming from these parallel societies, which often arise in poverty-stricken areas, is that they tend to slow or prevent the integration of migrants into the culture and society of the host country.
But according to Breitbart, that could be about to change in Denmark, as a bill has been submitted that would require immigrants to teach their children the Danish language and Danish customs, lest they find their government benefits at risk of being withdrawn.
As the law stands now, non-preschool-enrolled migrant children who have reached three years of age are required to take a Danish language test, and those who do not display the required level of understanding must be enrolled in language classes.
The proposed law, which surprisingly is supported by both the right-leaning Danish People’s Party and the leftist Social Democrats, would lower the age by which children must begin learning Danish to two years of age, and would increase the length and scope of the training course. Furthermore, migrant parents who refuse to allow their children to learn the language and customs of Denmark would lose their child benefit payments from the government.
The U.K. Express reported that the new proposal stemmed from a shocking report released in November 2016 which revealed that at least 30 migrant ghettos and “no-go zones” were flourishing in the country, separate from the rest of Danish society.
“(The report) shows that the integration in Denmark has failed,” said immigration minister Inger Støjberg. “In my opinion it is because we have been too scared to set out clear demands to the people coming to Denmark.”
“We have not dared to say that we expect and demand that they provide for themselves and their families, and that we expect them to adjust to Danish values,” she continued. “When we make no demands and we are not ready to make laws and rules up that tighten up the labor market, we’ll see what we see today.”
She added that nobody should be “baffled” by Denmark’s experience, given the massive influx of foreigners into the country in recent years. Indeed, it is not surprising at all that these parallel societies within a society have been forming and growing, as they are a direct result of progressive policies that place multiculturalism ahead of defending native culture and tradition.
Denmark is taking a step in the right direction with its newly proposed policy intended to better integrate the children of migrants, and hopefully other European nations will propose their own similar laws, unless they are ready to cede their own cultures, languages and societies to foreigners.