In a move that sounds straight out of Orwell, Amsterdam allocated 1 million euros last week to a plan that would relocate trouble-making neighbors to camps on the outskirts of the city, the BBC reports.
The “scum villages,” as critics have called them, would lie in isolated areas and provide only basic services to their unwilling residents. According to details of the plan reported by Der Spiegel and the BBC, residents will live in “container homes,” under the watchful eye of social workers or police. The residents themselves might not make very good company. According to the BBC, they’ll include families that engage in repeated, small-scale harassment, like bullying gay neighbors or intimidating police witnesses.
If this reads a little like ghettoization, you’re not the only one to notice. Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has already faced a number of questions about the fairness of the plan, as well as the fear that crowding troublemakers together will simply breed more trouble. Most alarming, however, are the parallels to a plan proposed by far right-wing politician Geert Wilders last year.
Under that plan, Dutch paper de Volkskrant reports, repeat offenders (and their families, if minors) would relocate to container compounds in isolated areas. Residents could only return to society after a proven period of work or study. At the time, Wilders called his proposal a way to “put all the trash together and leave normal people alone,” according to a translation by Der Spiegel. But Wilders’s definition of “normal people” has concerned many observers, including Holland’s Public Prosecution Service — it charged him with several counts of inciting hate and discrimination against Muslims in January 2009.
Amsterdam city officials are, unsurprisingly, disavowing any similarity between their plan and Wilders’s. It’s already drawing comparisons to a gentler assisted-living program in Denmark, which lacks — through design or better PR — the dystopic overtones of the “scum villages.”
“Usually people are scared to report problems for fear of intimidation,” city spokeswoman Tahira Limon told the BBC. “It’s an upside down world and we want to change it so the people who cause the problems are moved.”