Denmark seeks to address "ghetto" problems by reducing the number of "non-Western" residents

Denmark plans to crack down further on disadvantaged neighbourhoods by reducing the number of "non-Western" residents, the Social Democratic government said Wednesday, scrapping the controversial term "ghetto" in its proposed legislation, The Local has reported.

The Interior Ministry has proposed that the share of residents of “non-Western” origin in each neighbourhood should be limited to a maximum of 30% within 10 years.

Kaare Dybvad

Denmark has for years had one of Europe’s most restrictive immigration policies, which Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has continued since coming to power in June 2019.

According to Interior Minister Kaare Dybvad Bek (pictured right), too many non-Western foreigners in one area “increases the risk of an emergence of religious and cultural parallel societies."

He said however that the term “ghetto”, used to designate disadvantaged neighbourhoods, would be removed from the new legislation.

“The term ghetto is misleading… I think it contributes to eclipsing the large amount of work that needs doing in these neighbourhoods,” he said.


Denmark has compiled a “ghetto list” annually since 2010; the criteria are:

  • higher than average jobless and crime rates;
  • lower than average educational attainment;
  • residents have a gross income 55% lower than the regional average;
  • more than half of the population being first or second-generation migrants.

Until now, the term "ghetto" was used legally to designate any neighbourhood of more than 1,000 people where more than half were of “non-Western” origin, and which met at least two of four criteria.

Fifteen Danish neighbourhoods currently fall into this category, and 25 others are considered “at risk”. The list is updated each December.

In these neighbourhoods, misdemeanours carry double the legal penalties in place elsewhere, and daycare is mandatory for all children over the age of one or family allowances are withdrawn.

The existing legislation also calls for council homes in these areas to be reduced to 40% of available housing by 2030.

The bill will be discussed by Danish political parties and is expected to pass, though no date has been set for the vote.

According to Statistics Denmark, 11% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants are of foreign origin, of whom 58% are from a country considered "non-Western."

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