Press release

As Denmark Plans Housing for Ukrainian Refugees, Justice Initiative Renews Calls for Abolishment of “Ghetto Package”

April 29, 2022
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COPENHAGEN—New measures to override Denmark’s “Ghetto Package” legislation to allow Ukrainian refugees to move into government-designated “ghetto” or “vulnerable housing” areas prove that it is racially inequitable and unnecessary. This adds to justifications for abolishing these discriminatory housing laws and ensuring that better access to housing and education be provided to all refugees, and not just those from Ukraine, argues the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The legislative changes adopted on Thursday, to increase the supply of much-needed housing for an anticipated influx of Ukrainian asylum-seekers, allow for an exception to the general rulings of the “Ghetto Package” that otherwise forbid municipal authorities from assigning housing for refugees in these areas. The “Ghetto Package” seeks to physically demolish and transform largely Muslim neighborhoods where most residents are of “non-Western” background, and many residents of “ghetto” areas have already been forcibly evicted from homes slated for demolition.

“The State’s volte-face on measures such as housing allocations for refugee groups show that the ‘Ghetto Package’ was clearly meant to target non-white individuals,” said Susheela Math, a senior managing litigation officer at the Justice Initiative. “These discriminatory measures do not serve any public good and clearly exacerbate the shortage of affordable housing in Denmark.”

Math continued: “Many of the racialized residents being evicted are Danish and identify strongly with their Danish identity, having been born in or lived in these so-called ghetto areas for years. These neighborhoods are their homes. Some of these individuals were refugees themselves and have fled conflict and persecution—no differently than Ukrainians now fleeing war. The discriminatory treatment that they have been subjected to stands in stark contrast to the rightfully compassionate welcome that Ukrainian refugees have received in Denmark.”

Majken Felle, a resident of Mjølnerparken, a neighborhood designated as a “ghetto” area, added: “Recently, a representative from Bo-Vita, the organization responsible for the redevelopment of Mjølnerparken, said in an interview that in neighborhoods like mine, there is an Arab mentality and residents do not care about Western culture, making these areas feel potentially unsafe to Ukrainian refugees. He is saying out loud what is the unspoken intention behind the permanent removal of homes in ‘ghetto’ areas: that these policies and demolition projects are driven by racial prejudice.”

Felle is among 12 Copenhagen residents who have filed a lawsuit supported by the Justice Initiative against the Danish government seeking a ruling that measures under the country’s “Ghetto Package” are unlawful under EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights. Just last week, two UN human rights experts made a new third-party intervention in the case to stress that the “Ghetto Package” violates the prohibition against racial discrimination, the human right to adequate housing, and other norms of international human rights law.

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