A bold new integration policy is causing a stir
With so much happening in Europe right now, yesterday’s news from Denmark hasn’t quite got the attention it deserves.
The gist of it is this: the Danish government is proposing to limit the share of ‘non-western’ residents in a particular neighbourhood to a maximum of 30%. It plans to achieve this goal within 10 years.
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This begs a number of questions. For a start, what exactly do they mean by ‘non-western’? Who will be covered by that definition and how will they be identified? Do the restrictions apply to non-citizens only or will immigrants acquiring Danish and/or EU citizenship still fall under the same restricted category? And what about their children or grandchildren?
Will the policy be achieved through social housing allocations only — or will it also apply to private rented and owner-occupied housing? In neighbourhoods where the proportion of ‘non-western’ residents is already over 30% how will the goal of the new policy be achieved? Would ‘surplus’ residents be removed against their will?
If the Danish government wants to avoid the “risk of an emergence of religious and cultural parallel societies” (as The Guardian quotes the Danish interior minister as saying), does that apply to all parallel societies — or only to those deemed ‘non-western’? Would a monastery fall foul of the definition? Or a Jewish neighbourhood? Or a Chinatown? What about Freetown Christiania — Copenhagen’s long-established anarchist commune — is it deemed sufficiently western not to count as a ‘parallel’ society?
The Danish government would no doubt protest that its policies are all about integration — and greatly preferable to growth of marginalised migrant neighbourhoods. In other words, the Danes are taking a proactively progressive approach in contrast to the discriminatory neglect that results in the poverty and alienation found in towns and cities across Europe.
Nevertheless, a policy of identifying certain categories of people — and specifying in law where they can and can’t live — does have disturbing precedents. Unlike South Africa under Apartheid, the intention is integration not segregation, but even even a system of ‘inverted-Apartheid’ is troubling.
The closest parallel may turn out to be Singapore’s Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP). The Singaporean government controls most of the city-state’s housing stock, giving it the final say on who lives where. This is how the policy is described on the official website:
It remains to be seen how closely Denmark’s new policy follows the Singaporean model — but if the Danish version only applies to some ethnic groups then it is arguably more problematic.
The irony is that Denmark has always been idolised by progressives in Britain and America. Indeed, along with Sweden, it is the epitome of the liberal welfare state. It’s also worth noting that it’s the Left not the Right in power right now. The Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen is a Social Democrat, and her administration is supported by parties even further to the Left. Furthermore, her hardline approach on immigration is proving popular — in most countries Social Democrat parties are struggling, but not in Denmark.
After Brexit, it was was feared that the UK would try to re-invent itself as Singapore-on-Thames. Turns out the real threat was Singapore-on-the-Baltic.