Denmark residents sue over laws for dismantling ‘ghettos’

STOCKHOLM — A group of Copenhagen residents sued the Danish government Wednesday over legislation that authorized dismantling neighborhoods designated as “ghettos,’’ arguing that the measures discriminate on the basis of ethnicity.

The legislation, adopted in 2018 for the stated purpose of reducing residential segregation, permitted actions such as the eviction of some residents and the sale of homes to investors to reduce the amount of affordable public housing in these areas to a maximum of 40 percent by 2030.

The lawsuit centers on the criteria the government uses to decide what qualifies as a ghetto. The factors include education and income levels, crime rates, and a demographic makeup in which ‘‘the proportion of immigrants and their descendants from non-Western countries exceeds 50 percent.”


Under the government’s definition, a poor neighborhood with high crime and low education would not be considered a ghetto if people born in Denmark and their descendants make up more than half of the population.

“The decisive criteria is the ethnicity of the tenants and residents,” said Eddie Khawaja, the attorney for the plaintiffs from Copenhagen’s Mjoelnerparken neighborhood, one of the areas declared as a ghetto. “This raises issues under Danish and EU law.’’