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  • Mjolnerparken, an allegedly 'hard ghetto', is a housing complex in Norrebro, a lively, multicultural and gentrifying district in Copenhagen.

    Mjolnerparken, an allegedly 'hard ghetto', is a housing complex in Norrebro, a lively, multicultural and gentrifying district in Copenhagen. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 January 2020

Danish authorities are currently executing a contentious plan consisting of harsh laws and housing policies to be implemented in some 30 areas.

A report by Al Jazeera published Wednesday found that Danish neighborhoods with more than half of the population being migrants or descendants of migrants of “non-Western countries” are classified by the government as "ghettos" on the base of criteria such as income, rate of employment, levels of education and number of people with criminal backgrounds​​​.  

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This comes as Denmark’s previous right-wing government introduced in March 2018 a national "ghetto plan," dubbed “One Denmark without Parallel Societies: No Ghettos in 2030,” since then the country has been maintaining an annual list of neighborhoods it classifies as “ghettos.”  

Danish authorities are currently executing their contentious plan which consists of harsh laws and housing policies to be implemented in some 30 areas.

An example of the rules passed is the obligation for children from the age of one to spend at least 25 hours a week in childcare to receive training in "Danish values."

The housing policies on the other hand essentially mean the demolition and transformation of low-income, largely Muslim neighborhoods. 

An insidious law is that public housing will be restricted to only 40 percent of total housing by 2030. This means that public housing is now either being demolished, redeveloped or rented to private companies. The fear is that thousands across the North European country may have to leave their homes.

Working-class, migrant and refugee communities who reside in these threatened areas feel confused and betrayed. They say the plan defames them as the term “ghetto” itself generally evokes negative connotations such as crime, unemployment, and dysfunction. 

People who live in these so-called "hard ghettos" are now also subject to doubled penalties for crimes. Certain violations, which would normally lead to the payment of a fine for someone who doesn’t come from a “ghetto,” could mean imprisonment for them.  

Mjolnerparken, an allegedly "hard ghetto", is a four-block housing complex situated in Norrebro, a lively, multicultural and gentrifying district in Copenhagen.

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There, 260 residencies will be sold. Residents have been informed through the housing association that they will have to leave their homes and are being encouraged to relocate to other areas. 

"I really like Mjolnerparken. Here, you never sleep hungry, you're never alone. If you forget your wallet when you go to the store, someone will let you take the food home, because we know each other here.” Asif Mehmood a resident in Mjolnerparken told Al Jazeera.

“You can never do that in the city center. We live in the best place you can be - there's a train station, bus stations. My wife is ill. We live next to three different hospitals, all five minutes away. That makes it very easy.”   

Samiah Qasim another resident said she doesn’t "think they can be more wrong about the 'ghetto' laws. Firstly, there's nothing wrong with the buildings which they're selling or tearing down. It's the people that live in those buildings who are struggling. And that's where you need to use the resources to provide support [...] and do preventative work.”

Regarding the law requiring parents to send their children to "Danish values" classes, Qasim said that she just received a letter saying that since she is from a 'ghetto' area, she has to sign up to send her daughter who is now six years old, to this institution for 25 hours a week.

“This has nothing to do with me as a mother. It is based simply on my address. If I moved over to the other side of the road, I would not be having any of these problems,” the mother said.

“I don't feel this law makes us feel included - it's the opposite. You're saying to kids from a young age that they are not good enough, that they have to do extra to be accepted by society,” Qasim concluded. 

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