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Denmark will limit ‘non-Western’ residents in neighbourhoods to 30%

In the latest of a raft of laws seen as moves to curb immigration, Denmark has said it will limit “non-Western” residents in disadvantaged neighborhoods to 30% by 2031 under new legislation.

The bill, proposed by Denmark’s centre-left government, was prompted by concerns that concentrations of “non-Westerners” increased “the risk of an emergence of religious and cultural parallel societies” according to interior minister Kaare Dybvad Bek.

Minister Bek said that the controversial term ‘ghetto’, previously used to designate disadvantaged neighbourhoods, was removed from the new legislation because the term was misleading. “I think it contributes to eclipsing the large amount of work that needs doing in these neighbourhoods,” he said.

‘Ghetto’ had been used to designate any neighbourhood of more than 1,000 people where more than half were of ‘non-Western’ origin, and which met at least two of four criteria, namely: more than 40 percent of residents are unemployed; more than 60 percent of 39-50 year-olds do not have completed secondary education; crime rates are three times higher than the national average; and where residents have a gross income 55 percent lower than the regional average.

At this juncture, fifteen Danish neighbourhoods fall into this category, while 25 others are considered ‘at risk’.  In these neighbourhoods, misdemeanours can carry double the legal penalties seen elsewhere, while it is mandatory for all children over the age of 1 to attend daycare, at the risk of having benefits withdrawn.

11% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants are foreign born, and 58 % of that group are from a country considered ‘non-Western’, according to Danish statistics. The country has ramped up laws seen as efforts to curtail immigration, including a “burqa ban” and a measure making it compulsory for children to attend extra schooling in “Danish values”.

Denmark became the first European nation to tell Syrian migrants that it was safe for then to return to their home country, when Mattias Tesfaye, Denmark’s immigration minister, said in February: “We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary. It can be withdrawn if protection is no longer needed”.

94 Syrian refugees were stripped of their residency permits after Danish authorities decided Damascus and surrounding areas were now safe.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says her party’s ambition is for Denmark to have ‘zero asylum seekers’. “That’s what our target is. Of course, we can’t promise it,” she told the Parliament in January. “We can’t promise zero asylum seekers but we can create a vision, like we did before the election, that we want a new asylum system and then do what we can to implement it,” she continued.

Despite being considered centre-left, the Danish government says that it needs to champion its own people’s right to safety nets and welfare benefits including free education and health care. The Social Democratic government has pursued a strict policy on asylum and immigration.

“We must take care that not too many [refugees, ed.] come to our country, otherwise our social cohesion could not exist. It is already under threat,” Frederiksen said.

Critics argue that the measures will cause friction and hardship, and are incompatible with Danish values of openness and tolerance.

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