New report by 10 NGOs (including Global Aktion)
Alternative report on Denmark 2020 to UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
These are some of the observations and recommendations of the report:
In its Concluding Observations of 2010 with respect to the 18th and 19th period reports from Denmark, the CERD Committee regretted the absence of certain data. This includes data on how the implementation of Denmark’s “anti-ghettoization” law had impacted people’s rights to freedom of residence, the practice of their culture and preservation of their cultural identities (Arts. 5 (d) (i) and (e) (iii) and (vi)).4 The Committee recommended that the State party assess the impact on the rights of affected ethnic groups to practice their own culture and that it guarantee that the law does not produce assimilationist effects, which result in the loss of cultural identities by impacted communities.
In its list of themes in relation to the combined 22nd to 24th reports of Denmark, the Committee included the situation of ethnic and ethno-religious minorities. These themes include steps taken to remove the term “ghetto” from laws and policies describing collective housing areas of ethnic minorities, measures taken to ensure access to adequate housing and related benefits, without discrimination, to ethnic minorities; and the impact of such measures.
This alternative report demonstrates that, rather than heeding the warning in the Committee’s Concluding Observations of 2010, Denmark has pursued a systemic legislative strategy of deliberately seeking to assimilate ethnic and ethno-religious groups, most markedly in the “Ghetto Package.” Instead of removing the term “ghetto” and taking measures to ensure access to housing without discrimination, in introducing and implementing the “Ghetto Package,” the State has entrenched the term “ghetto” within legislation and is in the process of evicting thousands of residents from their homes under that legislation. It has also paved the way for the imposition of discriminatory punitive measures in the name of “stronger enforcement of who can or cannot live in vulnerable neighbourhoods,” and “stronger police efforts and higher penalties in order to fight crime and create more security.”
“Ghettos” are defined using an explicit distinction between those of “Western” and ”non Western” “background”. The countries included in the definition of “Western” all have majority populations perceived to be white. In the State discourse the concept of ”non-Western” has been linked to notions of culture and religion, demonstrating the racialisation of ethnic and religious minorities. It is also something that is inherited: “background” extends not only to immigrants but also descendants and to both foreign nationals and Danish citizens. The planned evictions of economically disadvantaged non-white minorities and their neighbours are intended to dismantle communities, which affects cultural identities and networks of support. Under the guise of “integration,” the Ghetto Package violates its stated aims of a singular Danish society built on “freedom, tolerance and equal rights.”
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has reviewed the Ghetto Package and the Committee stated in its Concluding Observations that it is concerned that “the law is discriminatory. This is due to factors including the fact that it introduces the categorization of areas as ‘ghettos’ defined by the proportion of residents from ‘non-Western’ countries. This not only results in discrimination based on ethnic origin and nationality but also further marginalizing them…” The CESCR urged the State party to adopt a rights-based approach to its efforts to address residential segregation and to enhance social cohesion. Its recommenda tions included removing the definition of a “ghetto” with reference to residents from ”non Western” countries, which it called “a discriminator on the basis of ethnic origin and nationality” and repealing all provisions that have a direct or indirect discriminatory effect on refugees, migrants and residents of the “ghettos.”
This alternative report calls upon the Committee on the CERD to issue similar Concluding Observations, recognising the contemporary forms of racism driving the Ghetto Package and other actions and failures to act by the State party as set out in this report. The Committee is also asked to address the State party’s refusal to include ethnicity in its data collection.
The report sets out further details of the Ghetto Package (Chapter 3) as well as the wider political and social context of Islamophobia and xenophobia, including hate crime (Chapters 5 and 6.1). In its concluding observations on Denmark at its 20th and 21th report of 2015 (paragraph 10 1) the Committee urged Denmark to “redouble its efforts to combat racial prejudice and violence, xenophobia as well as to intolerance in the country, and to develop a national action plan on racism.” The State party plans to adopt a national action plan against anti-Semitism only but should include all other forms of contemporary racial discrimination, not least the growing Islamophobia.
In view of its General Recommendation No. 35 (2013) on combating racist hate speech, the Committee recalled that the right to freedom of expression is not unlimited but should be subject to certain restrictions, such as with respect to racist hate speech in whatever forms which rejects human dignity and equality and seeks to degrade the standing of individuals and groups. While respecting the right to freedom of expression, the State party should take effective measures to combat racist hate speech instead of doing the opposite. Currently the State party fails to address the growing racist discourse in Denmark brought about by political parties and organizations with racist agendas (Chapter 6). The Danish government has not distanced itself from these racist agendas and has even provided massive police protection for hate speech and racist propaganda by a convicted racist and politician touring vulnerable residential areas with many Muslim residents across the country advocating ethnic cleansing of all Muslims .
This hate speech against Muslims has only reluctantly been prosecuted by the Public Prosecutor, who seems to attach excessive weight to the almost unlimited freedom of speech of politicians. The Committee is urged to recommend the State party to ensure legislation effective against hate speech and hate crime since existing legislation is evidently insufficient as is the monitoring of hate speech and hate crime.
Chapter 6 explains the role of far-right actors, parties and rhetoric that have been normalised in Denmark in recent years, including the romanticised concept of “ethnic Danes” and the notion that Christian values form the basis of Danish culture. This report also covers the “Paradigm Shift” from integration to repatriation of even Danish citizens (Chapter 8) and gives other examples of discriminatory legislation (Chapter 7). Religious minorities such as Muslims are increasingly targeted by “othering” strategies in social and political debates, perpetuating stigma and negative stereotyping that amount to further marginalisation in Danish society. The report describes how the Paradigm Shifts leads to an “architecture of exclusion” (Chapter 9) and concludes with benefits for refugees and immigrants (Chapter 10).
Even during a time of global crisis, the State party took long to suspend the requirement to shake hands during naturalisation ceremonies. When the Covid-19 pandemic came, the Government initially suspended not the handshake but the granting of Danish citizenships. Not until early July 2020 was the handshake suspended – underlining the need for urgent action to tackle racism in Denmark in all its contemporary forms (cf Chapter 4).
The Committee is urged to recommend the State Party to revoke all discriminatory legislation, including laws pertaining to “ghettos”, “parallel societies”, and double-punishment zones in areas with many “non-Western” residents, laws targeting Muslims and especially Muslim women, Roma beggars as well as religious rituals, including religious slaughter. At the same time the Danish government should be praised for voting against the proposed 18-year age limit on male circumcision. Finally the Paradigm Shift must be eliminated and focus returned to integrating the new residents and utilizing their resources instead of trying to think of ways to get rid of them.
This alternative report on Denmark to UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) was prepared by the following NGOs:
SOS Racisme Danmark (SOS Racism Denmark)
Center for Dansk-Muslimske Relationer (CEDAR) (Center for Danish-Muslim Relations)
Kvinder i Dialog (Women in Dialogue)
Muslimsk Ungdom i Danmark (Muslim Youth in Denmark)
Retspolitisk Forening (The Legal Affairs Association)
Global Aktion (Global Action)
Almen Modstand (Common Resistance against the “Ghetto Package”)
ENAR Denmark (European Network against Racism)