Sep 26, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

Let’s talk about the taboo of “no-go zones”

No-go zones in Europe? This reporter calls the claim "ridiculous!" But apparently, the BBC takes it seriously.

Last week, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó was interviewed on the BBC’s Newsnight. The BBC anchor, Evan Davis, after displaying an alarmingly poor understanding of freedom of movement in the EU (which I wrote about here), then challenged Minister Szijjártó on the subject of “no-go zones.”

Davis was upset about a leaflet that has been distributed in the current referendum campaign, a government-sponsored leaflet that, urging Hungarian citizens to vote no to the EU being able to re-settle migrants in Hungary, cites so-called no-go zones in Europe, usually urban areas inhabited by migrants where local authorities struggle to maintain law and order and a basic sense of public security.

The campaign flier says these no-go areas exist also in the UK. Minister Szijjártó informed the BBC journalist that this was based on news coverage and official reports. Davis found that outrageous. Here’s the exchange:

Evan Davis: You think there are no-go zones, migrant no-go zones, in the UK, a dozen of them…You’ve been to the UK, right? I mean, you’ve been to London, haven’t you?

Minister Szijjártó: Yes, of course. I like London a lot.

Evan Davis: And you still believe there are no-go areas in London, where you can’t go because the migrants have taken over?

Minister Szijjártó: Yes, this is something that we based on official reports ---

Evan Davis: “But this is ridiculous! You can use your eyes… you can use your eyes (laughs)… It’s just ridiculous!”

Ridiculous! Laughable! Hungary is “annoying,” says Davis.

Yet the esteemed BBC itself made a documentary a few years ago called No Go Britain, an in-depth report on places in London “where people are just too scared to go – particularly at night.”

Had he tuned in to BBC Four back then, Davis could have watched the hour-long feature in which his BBC colleague, Adrian Addison, interviews local residents who tell him “this is not Britain, [it’s] Bangladesh.” Addison becomes a resident in the area to make the documentary and confesses his own fear, saying “I’ve read a lot about this place, it’s got an awful, awful reputation for street violence and people taking drugs. And I must admit I’m quite nervous about spending any length of time here,”

But wait, there’s more. The no-go zone is not only a UK problem.

The Ministry of Interior of France established so-called priority security zones (zones de sécurité prioritaires) around the country. The ministry refers to the zones as places that have suffered for several years from a lack of public security in daily life or where security conditions have declined significantly. They identified 15 initially, then added 49 more. You can view a map of the zones here.

And while we’re on the topic, the German press has been reporting on it as well.

An article published in Welt in July 2015 details a leaked city council report from Duisberg that discusses attacks on police officers, gangs ruling whole streets and the community living in fear.

"In Berlin, or in the north of Duisburg there are neighborhoods where colleagues hardly dare to stop a car,” said Rainer Wendt, federal president of the German Police Union to der Spiegel, “because they know that they'll have to face 40 or 50 men.”

In Sweden, the daily Svenska Dagbladet published a story in October 2014 entitled “55 no-go zones in Sweden.” It was based on a report issued by Sweden’s police, which cites, among other law and order challenges, areas where local gangs exact justice, resolving disputes through their own informal trials.

No-go zones are not Hungarian inventions. The phrase is so rooted in the English language that we do not have a proper Hungarian equivalent. Having no-go zones in your area is not shameful and talking about them is not defamatory. Denying the obvious, however, is a shame. One of the greatest virtues of our European culture is being able to debate honestly mistakes and failures instead of treating them as taboo and pretending they don’t exist.