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Why Denmark Is Doubling Down on Its ‘Ghetto List’

The Scandinavian country of bike lanes and wind turbines reveals its darker, intolerant streak.
Roadworks in Mjølnerparken, a Copenhagen housing project on the Danish government's "ghetto list."
Roadworks in Mjølnerparken, a Copenhagen housing project on the Danish government's "ghetto list."Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The Danes are doubling down on their “ghetto list.” Yes, that’s actually what the government calls it. In a series of announced policies that seeks to impose special requirements and even graver punishments for crimes committed in Denmark’s poorest urban areas, the Scandinavian country of bike lanes and wind turbines has revealed its darker, intolerant streak. The proposed policies would subject individuals—mostly immigrants or children of immigrants —to rules that are at turns punitive or paternalistic, based primarily on where they live.

The proposed measures, reported in Monday’s New York Times, are draconian. From the age of one, children living in one of 30 government-defined “ghettoes” would have to spend at least 25 hours a week away from their families—naps excluded—in government preschools to receive mandatory exposure to “Danish values,” or their families may have welfare benefits stopped. In another measure, proposed but not yet voted upon, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen also wants to double the punishments for some crimes if they are committed within the confines of these areas. There has even been discussion of putting electronic tags on teenagers with a migration background to force them to keep an 8 p.m. curfew. This particular idea has been rejected, but that its debate even has a place in Denmark’s parliament shows how far right the debate has drifted.