Denmark to Limit 'Non-Western' Residents as Society Becomes Divided
Limit neighborhoods to 30% to 'reduce risk of religious and cultural parallel societies'
Denmark has announced a new plan to reduce the escalating cultural divide in its society that includes placing a limit of 30 percent "non-Western" residents in all neighborhoods.
The Danish government revealed the legislation on Wednesday which it says seeks to "reduce the risk of religious and cultural parallel societies."
The move comes in response to the rising numbers of foreign migrants living in Denmark that have "ghettoized" neighborhoods, with many becoming "no-go zones" for Western residents and native Danes.
While making the announcement this week, the country's Social Democratic government scrapped the controversial term "ghetto" in its proposed legislation, replacing it with "disadvantaged neighborhoods."
In the bill - a review of existing legislation on combating parallel societies - the interior ministry proposed that the share of residents of "non-Western" origin in each neighborhood be limited to a maximum of 30 percent within 10 years.
Denmark has for years had one of Europe's most restrictive immigration policies, which Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has continued since coming to power in June 2019 amid growing opposition from the right.
According to Interior Minister Kaare Dybvad Bek, too many non-Western foreigners in one area "increases the risk of an emergence of religious and cultural parallel societies," he said in a statement.
He said, however, that the term "ghetto," used to designate disadvantaged neighborhoods, would be removed from the new legislation.
"The term ghetto is misleading," he said.
"I think it contributes to eclipsing the large amount of work that needs doing in these neighborhoods."
Until now, the term was used legally to designate any neighborhood of more than 1,000 people where more than half were of "non-Western" origin, and which met at least two of four criteria.
The four criteria are: more than 40 percent of residents are unemployed; more than 60 percent of 39-50 year-olds do not have an upper secondary education; crime rates three times higher than the national average; residents have a gross income 55 percent lower than the regional average.
Fifteen Danish neighborhoods currently fall into this category, and 25 others are considered "at risk."
The list is updated each December.
In these neighborhoods, misdemeanors carry double the legal penalties in place elsewhere, and daycare is mandatory for all children over the age of one or family allowances are withdrawn.
The existing legislation also calls for council homes in these areas to be reduced to 40 percent of available housing by 2030.
The bill will be discussed by Danish political parties and is expected to pass, though no date has been set for the vote.
According to Statistics Denmark, 11 percent of Denmark's 5.8 million inhabitants are of foreign origin, of whom 58 percent are from a country considered "non-Western."
Earlier this month, Denmark became the first European nation to tell Syrian migrants they must return to their home country, saying it is now safe for them there.
The Scandinavian nation stripped 94 Syrian refugees of their residency permits after it determined Damascus and the surrounding area as being safe.
Migrants will be sent to deportation camps, but will not be forced to leave.
But rights groups say the government is trying to give migrants no other option than to return to Syria on their own accord.
Mattias Tesfaye, Denmark's immigration minister, said last month that the country had been "open and honest from the start" with refugees coming from Syria.
"We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary," he said, according to The Daily Telegraph.
"It can be withdrawn if protection is no longer needed."
His comments came as Denmark extended the parts on Syria considered safe for people to return, to include the southern Rif Dimashq Governorate.
"We must give people protection for as long as it is needed," he said.
"But when conditions in the home country improve, a former refugee should return home and re-establish a life there."
Denmark's ruling centre-Left Social Democratic Party has taken a fierce anti-immigration stance in an effort to fend off challenges from parties on the Right.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has promised to target "zero" asylum seekers applying for residence in the country.