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Go deeper: Denmark’s extreme plan for its immigrant "ghettos"

Muslim women immigrants in Copenhagen. Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

The Danish government is introducing a new set of assimilation laws that'll apply to 25 immigrant "ghettos" — largely low-income, Muslim-majority urban neighborhoods, reports the New York Times.

Why it matters: Denmark's moves, many of which have already been approved by its parliament, would compel immigrants to assimilate to avoid legal consequences. Critics of the legislation say it essentially imposes harsher laws on certain people simply because they are immigrants.

The backdrop:

  • The influx of immigrants has presented challenges for Denmark's government, which has struggled to integrate the new arrivals to their small, homogenous nation.
  • So "leaders are focusing their ire on urban neighborhoods where immigrants, some of them placed there by the government, live in dense concentrations with high rates of unemployment and gang violence," write the Times' Ellen Barry and Martin Selsoe Sorensen.

The details:

  • The new laws would separate "ghetto children" — that's the government's language — from their parents for 30 hours a week starting at the age of 1. Children would attend mandatory daycare to take lessons in Danish values, Quartz reports. The rest of Denmark's parents can choose not to send their kids to school until they turn 6.
  • Another law under consideration would make punishments for certain crimes harsher just because they were committed in "ghettos."
  • Yet another would forbid immigrant parents from taking their children on extended trips to their home countries because it would risk interfering with the kids' "schooling, language and well-being," per the Times. The punishment for that would be a four years in prison.
  • One proposal, brought forth by Denmark's far-right Danish People's Party, would force "ghetto children" to stay in their homes after 8 p.m. That measure has been rejected, reports the Times.

The bigger picture:

  • Assimilation by law is becoming a trend in Europe, writes Quartz's Annabelle Timsit.
  • "In Germany, language tests are carried out on migrant children in all federal länder as early as kindergarten, or even before kids enroll in schools. German asylum applicants, including children, go through integration courses to learn information about Germany and German values," Timsit writes.
  • "[I]n France, where low-income Muslim migrants and refugees are ghettoized into working-class suburbs called banlieues, the government of Emmanuel Macron is proposing creating independent legal authorities to oversee public policies for the banlieues."

The bottom line:

"We call them 'ghetto children, ghetto parents,' it’s so crazy ... It is becoming a mainstream word, which is so dangerous. People who know a little about history, our European not-so-nice period, we know what the word 'ghetto' is associated with."
— Yildiz Akdogan, a Social Democrat in Danish government, to the Times
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