Geneva - Denmark’s Ghetto Package is a textbook recipe for discrimination, incitement and unnecessary and counterproductive punitive policies emanating from political expediency rather than sound policymaking, said Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor is a statement today. The Danish government must immediately and unconditionally cease all measures taken against areas designated as “Ghettoes,” including evictions, compulsory daycare, double punishment and over-policing.
In a brief report released on Monday entitled “Disguised Racism,” Euro-Med Monitor concluded after examining the merits of Denmark’s “Ghetto list” and associated “Ghetto package” that since its inception in 2010, the list has been part of the problem rather than the solution. Whether in terms of its flawed and discriminatory criteria that disproportionately target individuals of non-European ethnicities; its heavily punitive and counter-productive policies; or its very stigmatizing name, the “Ghetto list” contributes to fueling xenophobia, racial prejudice and intolerance against vulnerable minorities.
Euro-Med Monitor cautions that the Ghetto list and associated policies sow fear, insecurity, mistrust and resistance amongst the groups it targets, and stand in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and EU law vis-à-vis the rights to non-discrimination, equality and adequate housing, as well as the right of equality before the law and equal treatment before tribunals.
Denmark’s Ghetto package assumes that the sheer presence of clusters of populations of non-white ethnicities is the root cause of social problems in those areas, such as unemployment, low educational attainment, poverty or crimes. Subsequently, the Danish government seems to assume that merely ridding underprivileged neighborhoods of their non-white inhabitants would solve the problem. This was made clear in 2021, when Denmark’s Interior and Housing Minister revealed plans to introduce a requirement that would reduce the number of individuals of “non-Western backgrounds” in “Ghetto” areas to less than 30% by 2030.
In reality, however, the “Ghetto” framing of the issue leads to stigmatizing and ostracizing targeted minorities, as well as fueling racial prejudice and intolerance towards them. This in turn impedes and shrinks any potential for sound policymaking as it entraps Danish political parties in a cycle of rhetorical competitiveness centered around who could be tougher on “Ghettoes.”
“Denmark’s Ghetto laws are a basic exercise of scapegoating, populism and political expediency,” said Michela Pugliese, Migration Researcher at the Euro-Med Monitor, “Instead of tackling the underlying root causes that lead to poverty, undereducation or unemployment amongst racial, ethnic and national minorities, the Danish government chooses to target and blame already vulnerable people for their social and economic disadvantages to score some political points.”
Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Danish government to halt all discriminatory and disproportionate punitive measures against residents of areas listed as “Ghettoes” or “tough Ghettoes;” Introduce incentives to encourage the integration of migrants and their offspring, rather than their forced assimilation; Tackle the scarcity of affordable housing as well as discrimination in housing and the labor market against racial, ethnic or national minorities; Foster a more positive, welcoming and embracing perception of migrants and refugees in the country.
Since 2010, the Danish government’s Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing has been maintaining and updating an annual list of “Ghettoes” in the country. The designation “Ghetto” refers to a “particularly vulnerable public housing area” which according to Danish authorities has social problems and contains a majority population of "non-Western" ethnicities. In 2019, the Ghetto list included 29 areas and districts.
A 2018 set of rules called the “Ghetto package” was introduced to end the Ghettoes by 2030. These heavily punitive policies include evicting and displacing families from “tough Ghettoes;” pressing Ghetto parents to send their children from the age of 1 to mandatory daycares to receive instructions in “Danish values” and language; doubling the punishment of misdemeanors and felonies in “Ghetto” areas.