Recent government proposals to be finalised by parliament over the next few weeks target Denmark’s so-called “ghetto neighbourhoods” with a series of sanctions and incentives which have been given enthusiastic backing by the left-leaning opposition.
Under the proposals, children living in the targeted areas would be required by law to attend daycare for 25 hours a week to make sure they learn Danish and the country’s values and customs.
Immigrant families who take their children back to their countries of origin for long periods could face prison or deportation and crimes committed in the neighbourhoods would carry heavier sentences.
The measures are expected to be fully approved with a large parliamentary majority and have the support of the largest opposition party, the left-wing Danish Social Democrats.
Danish Social Democrats’ spokesman on immigration and integration, Mattias Tesfaye, said: “We tried to negotiate this to be more draconian.
“We think the government has been soft on this.”
The Social Democrats recently overhauled their political agenda and came up with a “Together for Denmark” manifesto which adopts much of the language of the anti-immigration right.
The policy describes “parallel societies” where “foreigners and their descendants live, isolated from the Danish community and with values that are not Danish” and calls them “unacceptable.”
In addition to throwing its support behind the plan, the party has supported the government in allowing the jewelry and valuables of asylum seekers to be seized by authorities in payment for their reception, and in banning face veils.
Mr Tesfaye, whose father was an Ethiopian refugee, said: “Why should the social democratic position be we should leave people alone, and leave the right with the argument that we have to have a common cultural background?”
“It should be a core issue for social democratic parties to break down these parallel societies and make sure we all belong to each other.
“We have to be very explicit. We have to say for example: We need you to support a secular state where there’s a religious freedom, and where the common rules of society are supported by secular arguments.
“We need you to make sure your children learn Danish. We need you to live not just in one place where all the refugees are.”
He insisted the proposals are necessary to defend the welfare state and said people can only be asked to pay up to 53 percent in income tax for health, education and a safety net if they feel part of a common unit with their fellow citizens.
A ban on the wearing of face veils in public came into force in Denmark last month.
The country’s parliament passed the controversial law in May when it joined France and other EU countries in what some politicians say is upholding secular and democratic values.