- The New York Times detailed the strict laws in Denmark that single out the country’s growing non-white immigrant population.
- The government designates areas populated by such immigrants as “ghetto neighbourhoods,” and requires toddlers who live in them to spend 25 hours a week learning “Danish values.”
- While many immigrants see themselves as thriving, the largely homogeneous society doesn’t always think their presence is positive.
While America has come under fire in recent weeks for its controversial immigration policies, including the now-defunct “zero-tolerance” policy of separating families at the border, another Western nation is now in the spotlight for what some perceive to be harsh and discriminatory treatment of immigrants.
A New York Times story published Sunday profiles the strict rules immigrant children in Denmark are subject to by law. Denmark has welcomed an influx of mostly Middle-Eastern immigrants and refugees in recent years, but the society, which is 87% white, native Danes, has struggled to adapt to changing demographics.
The government has imposed and may continue to introduce strict regulations on what they term “ghetto children” in “ghetto neighbourhoods,” or poorer urban areas with significant first-generation immigrant and Muslim populations. Approximately two-thirds of Denmark’s immigrants hail from majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East.
Children born in “ghetto neighbourhoods” are mandated after their first birthdays to spend 25 hours away from their parents every week to learn “Danish values,” including instruction on Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, as well as Danish language education. Parents who opt to keep their children at home risk losing access to government benefits.
Other proposals being floated in parliament include doubling penalties for crimes committed in “ghetto neighbourhoods” as opposed to mostly white ones, sentencing immigrant parents to years of jail time if they allow their children to travel to their country of origin, and upping government surveillance of “ghetto neighbourhoods.”
One lawmaker from the right-wing People’s Party, which is gaining power and votes in parliament, even suggested putting ankle bracelets on immigrant children to prevent them from going outside past 8 p.m., a proposal that ultimately did not pan out.
The differing perspectives of Danish citizens interviewed in the Times article reveals a divide in how immigrants are perceived in Danish society. Muslim immigrants saw themselves as already assimilated into the fabric of Danish life, whereas native-born citizens from middle-class white neighbourhoods perceived them to be a burden on society.
“It hurts that they don’t see us as equal people,” an 18 year-old refugee from Somalia who lives in a designated ghetto neighbourhood told The Times. “We actually live in Danish society. We follow the rules, we go to school. The only thing we don’t do is eat pork.”
One second-generation immigrant of Lebanese descent interviewed for the story said that she speaks to her children almost entirely in Danish already, so much so that her children barely know Arabic at all.
Some white Danes in mostly white areas, however, told The Times they believe immigrants are lazy, often taking away from Denmark’s generous welfare state while leading lives incompatible with “Western values.”
“I think they are 300 to 400 years behind us,” one native Dane told The Times.
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