Migrant No-Go Zones: New Face of Europe?
Immigrant-dominated, crime-ridden and largely Muslim enclaves across Europe, the so-called “no-go zones,” have become as much an ideological battleground as a literal one, but many arguing about them have never been to one.
What no-go zones are not
For most people at most times, the designation “no-go zone” should not be taken literally.
There are exceptions. In the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby the local police station was shut down in 2014, following the latest in a series of fire-bombing riots, and the one currently under construction is reminiscent of a war-zone outpost, to which police officers will have to be driven. Sparked by seemingly routine encounters between petty criminals and the cops, mass violent protests have originated in the district most years since 2010, though just as notably car burnings and stone-throwing flash riots are at times so frequent they are barely reported in the local media.
While Rinkeby, with its colorful moniker Little Mogadishu, and its own melting-pot dialect that has been studied by linguists, is beloved by journalists, there are other areas in Sweden, and throughout Europe, where police prefer to operate withoutuniforms, or do not bother to enter, unless they have a specific order, or fear violence spilling out beyond.
Journalists are similarly made to feel unwelcome. Thousands of reports are filed from deprived neighborhoods without incident each year, and it is the exceptions that get reported, but attacks on TV crews and live report spots in particular are not infrequent.
More alarming, if harder to document day-to-day, is the hostility toward women and Jews. A petition launched by women in the Paris district of La Chapelle gathered 20,000 signatures, and was endorsed by the city’s mayor, after women complained of aggressive comments from migrants towards women dressed in Western outfits, such as “What’s up your skirt?” and “Lower your eyes, slut.”
The Jewish population of Malmo has halved in a decade, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles has recommended that those who remain leave the city since 2010, with dozens of religiously-motivated street attacks recorded by the police each year. A journalist filming a documentary in the widely-covered Iraqi and Bosnian-dominated district of Rosengard while wearing a kippah was pelted with eggs and cries of “Jewish Satan!”
But for all the lurid stories of Sharia patrols and men-only establishments, at first sight even the most notorious no-go zones are not scenes of post-apocalyptic breakdown adorned with ISIS flags, but often prosaicpost-war brutalist inner-city housing blocks that have been abandoned by the native population, and have not yet been gentrified. The immediate dangers to visitors are not stray bullets or gangland enforcers, but the calorific options at plentiful local takeaways, and freely available hard drugs.
“These are not full-fledged no-go zones,”explained Daniel Pipes, the conservative writer who largely popularized the term, and went on to visit over a dozen such areas in Europe. “In normal times, they are unthreatening, routine places. But they do unpredictably erupt, with car burnings, attacks on representatives of the state (including police), and riots.”
Usually, it’s not that no one can enter a no-go zone, it’s that no one – other than the residents – wants to. And rather than the open conflict – which brings news reports and a government response – it insidious alienation and neglect that make no-go zones a blight on European societies.
Reality of no-go zones
There exists no universally accepted definition of a no-go zone, much less a comprehensive statistical analysis of them. Since 1996, France has designated over 750 Sensitive Urban Areas characterized by low house ownership, unemployment and poor educational status, and while the areas, which have a population of above 5 million people, have been used as a byword for no-go zones both inside the country and in international media, the overlap is inexact. The 61 “vulnerable areas” singled out by Swedish police are a closer match, with their emphasis on crime and resistance to state involvement, but certain social and religious factors go beyond this police definition.
Nonetheless, however they are labeled, no-go zones are “real” – insofar as that areas that have gained notoriety as such share a series of substantive characteristics and problems that are exceedingly similar around the continent.