‘World’s coolest neighbourhood’ threatened by Danish ghetto law | Denmark

A trendy neighbourhood in Copenhagen named the “coolest in the world” is bracing itself for a major protest over an anti-ghetto law that critics say is racist and pushing out the remaining social housing residents.

Hundreds of demonstrators, supported by the Danish capital’s mayor for the environment, Line Barfod, are expected to mass on the edges of the Mjølnerparken housing estate, in the popular Nørrebro area, on Saturday.

The protest marks the latest attempt to push back against “parallel society” laws, which limit the proportion of “non-western” people in certain neighbourhoods and force local housing associations to sell up to private developers.

The protest is designed to keep pressure on the government before a European court of justice ruling next year on a case brought by Mjølnerparken residents, who say the ghetto laws are in breach of EU laws against racial discrimination.

Nørrebro, a north-western area of Copenhagen that Time Out last year called the “world’s coolest neighbourhood”, has been gentrified over the past decade but retains pockets of social housing.

Its multi-ethnic Mjølnerparken estate has fallen foul of laws introduced in 2018, under which one of the defining criteria for classification as a ghetto is a high number of residents with a so-called non-western background, including first- and second-generation migrants.

Women relaxing in Mjølnerparken. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The government claims certain areas have become “holes in the map of Denmark”, where residents “do not actively participate in the Danish language, society and labour market”. Almost all the mainstream political parties in Denmark have backed the policy.

Under the anti-ghetto legislation, social housing stock in such areas must be no more than 40% of the total.

The board of a non-profit housing association, Bo-Vita, has until 2030 to reduce its footprint in Mjølnerparken to comply with the law, but it has already announced the sale of two of the four blocks on the housing estate.

Majken Felle, a resident for eight years, who is facing eviction, said: “Mjølnerparken residents live here by choice, where we feel safe and secure. We want to stay in our homes and neighbourhood and will keep fighting for our rights to do so.

“We are very pleased that so many citizens in Denmark have repeatedly shown their contempt for this discriminatory law by showing up to demonstrations like this one and calling for justice, equality, and the protection of human rights. It makes me hopeful that there is a different future for this country, a future where nobody is subject to discriminatory laws.”

Christine Borgvold Hansen, 30, a teacher and one of the organisers of the protests, said people whose children were educated in the area or who received medical treatment nearby were being forced out of their homes. She said: “There has been a huge gentrification but Mjølnerparken has not been affected until now.”

skip past newsletter promotion

Hansen said there was a growing “racialisation” of Danish government policy, exemplified by the prime minister, Mette Frederiksen’s, announcement earlier this week of a policy targeting “non-western” women on benefits.

Frederiksen told reporters she would soon introduce a law to oblige such women to contribute to the labour market for 37 hours a week. “For us, it is a very basic and important Danish principle: you must be able to support yourself, you must be part of the labour market.”

A spokesman for Bo-Vita said: “Unfortunately, this demonstration is an expression of the usual misunderstandings that opponents of the so-called ghetto law repeatedly make, among other things, against the board of Bo-Vita – the housing association that owns Mjoelnerparken.

“The truth is that Bo-Vita follows the legislation that the Danish parliament passed with an 80% majority in 2018. This democratic legislation meant that Mjoelnerparken, which at the time was on the so-called ‘hard ghetto list’, had to reduce the number of family homes by 60%. The options for this were either to sell off housing, to demolish homes or to convert homes into senior housing or youth housing.

“In cooperation with the City of Copenhagen. Bo-Vita chose to sell off homes […] All residents have been offered another apartment. The vast majority have moved voluntarily to better housing elsewhere in Copenhagen. No one has been lied to and no one has been treated badly.”

Leave a Reply