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Rasmussen’s call for 'end of ghettos' is not the first by a Danish PM

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Rasmussen’s call for 'end of ghettos' is not the first by a Danish PM
A block in Odense's Vollsmose neighbourhood, pictured in 2008. File photo: Jonathan Bjerg Møller/Polfoto/Ritzau
11:22 CET+01:00
Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced in his New Year’s Day speech that the government would announce a new plan aimed at tackling the phenomenon of ‘ghetto’ neighbourhoods in the Scandinavian country.

In the speech, Rasmussen said that he was prepared to “break up concrete and pull down buildings” if necessary to tackle social problems in marginalised areas.

The prime minister stressed that he wanted to “end ghettos completely”.

But Rasmussen’s New Year’s speech was not the first call to action against the existence of ghettos by a Danish prime minister.

During his first term as PM, Rasmussen in 2010 announced that he aimed to bring about the “end of parallel societies”.

The same year, he said in parliament that it was time to “take issue with the misunderstood tolerance for the intolerance that reigns in parts of ghettos.”

“No purpose is served by just putting money into painting facades. We are facing specific problems that need specific solutions.

“We want to pull walls down. We want to open up ghettos to society,” Rasmussen said in his speech at the 2010 opening of parliament.

A subsequent ghetto plan put forth by the Liberal-Conservative government then led by Rasmussen included provisions for “strategic demolition of housing blocks” and obligatory daycare for bilingual children.

Those proposals bear comparison with the New Year’s speech given by the prime minister on January 1st 2018, in which he also discussed demolition of housing and enrolling children in daycare at an earlier age.

Rasmussen’s predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a New Year speech back in 2004 that the “unfortunate creation of ghettos must be stopped”.

“We must insist that children learn good Danish before they start school. Young, unadjusted immigrants [people with non-Danish national heritage, ed.] must be kept from joblessness, street corners and criminality,” Fogh Rasmussen said.

Later in 2004, the Fogh Rasmussen-led government presented a plan that enabled municipalities to refuse social housing to applicants receiving social welfare payments (kontanthjælp in Danish) if this was assessed as adding burden to already-underprivileged areas.

Going further back, Social Democrat-led governments have also introduced initiatives aimed at easing marginalisation of so-called ‘ghetto’ areas in Denmark.

The upcoming proposal by Rasmussen’s government will as such be the sixth anti-ghetto measure of its kind since 1994, writes Ritzau.

But previous political initiatives and investments have done little to ease the problems faced by marginalised areas, according to a report released last year.

The report, funded by publisher Krak’s city research foundation and entitled “A Historical Review of Significantly Marginalised Housing Areas” (Et historisk tilbageblik på særligt udsatte boligområder), concluded that once neighbourhoods became marginalised, they remained in that state.

A high prevalence and combination of unemployment, low education levels, criminality and low income in these areas has remained largely unchanged since 1985, forming part of the basis for that conclusion, the authors of the report wrote.

READ ALSO: Denmark removes neighbourhoods from 'ghetto' list of deprived areas

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