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Europe’s No Go Zones – Fact or Fiction

Following President Trump’s comments regarding the security situation in Sweden, which has ignited furious debate, we are reposting this analysis on Europe’s ‘No Go Zones’ Fact or Fiction, which in part looks at Sweden.
Originally posted on June 3, 2016.


There is much argument in the media regarding ‘no go zones’ and whether or not they exist in Europe. In Jan 2015, Fox News issued an apology in relation to a statement they made regarding Muslim no go zones in England and France.
To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion.
In this post, I want to explore this issue further. Are no go zones fact or fiction in Europe?
The first thing I must address is the term ‘no go zone’. A ‘no-go area’ or ‘no-go zone’ is an area barricaded off to civil authorities by a force or barred to certain individuals or groups. During the Troubles, the term was applied to urban areas in Northern Ireland where the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and British Army could not operate openly.

The most notable no-go area was Free Derry. The area’s existence was a challenge to the authority of the British government.
On 31 July 1972, the British Army demolished the barricades and re-established control in Operation Motorman. It was the biggest British military operation since the Suez Crisis. Although the areas were no longer barricaded, they remained areas where the British security forces found it difficult to operate and were regularly attacked.
So do these no go zones exist in Europe, remembering that the definition we are using is an area that is barricaded off to civil authorities by a force or barred to certain individuals or groups, where security forces can not operate openly?


In a report produced by Swedenâs National Criminal Investigation Service, 52 areas of the country have been put on a blacklist which is then divided into three categories from risky areas to seriously vulnerable. Intelligence Fusion analysts have marked these areas on our mapping, which can be seen in the image below. They stretch from Malmo in the south to areas north of Stockholm.

Seriously vulnerable areas are described by police as areas where threats, violence and extortion are common. Residents do not dare speak to police for fear of violence. Drug sales are conducted in the open, and children can be seen carrying firearms. An example of one of these seriously vulnerable areas is the Rinkeby/Tensta area in north west Stockholm.

The problems of this area are described as:

Regular traffic stops lead to people surrounding and attacking police cars. As a result, police have to operate in joint patrols with reinforcements strategically placed for support. For tactical reasons, police wonât respond if it is a low-priority crime. In an area with a population of 34,903, there are approximately 500 regular offenders. Robberies and car fires are common. Shootings in public places have led to passers-by being injured. The area is a central point for drug trafficking in Stockholm. Criminals will dispense their own justice in the area. There is a market for stolen goods in the area. Jewish people are advised to avoid the area. Christian women are advised to avoid the central area to avoid being harassed by Muslim men.

There is open support for violent extremists and radical organisations with a large number of sympathisers living in the area.
The following video is of the Australian TV programme 60 Minutes entering the Rinkeby area. Of note is not only the violence but the policeâs fear of causing provocation.

So is it a no go zone? To say no would be quibbling over semantics. It is an area where the rule of law is not being enforced effectively, criminality and radicalism are rampant; police have had to amend their tactics, meaning they have ceded power to criminal elements. Police advise Jewish people to avoid the area; therefore, it is essentially barred to certain individuals or groups. Ask yourself, would you like to wander around this area on your own at night? If the answer is no, then I would argue this is a no go zone. Is it just Sweden that has an issue with no go zones?


A law passed on November 14, 1996, created sensitive urban zones (ZUS) and urban tax-free zones (ZFU). ZUSs are neighbourhoods which are disproportionately poor, lacking in formal education, reliant on social housing and have high levels of unemployment. That is a key aspect that I will come to in my conclusion. The law of November 14, 1996 (which implements a renewed urban policy) distinguishes three levels of intervention:
  • Sensitive urban zones (Zones urbaines sensibles, ZUS)
  • Urban renewal zones (Zones de redynamisation urbaine, ZRU)
  • Urban tax-free zones (Zones franches urbaines, ZFU)
The three levels of intervention (ZUS, ZRU and ZFU), characterized by fiscal and social measures of increasing importance, target the difficulties encountered in these districts with differing degrees of response.
A 2010 study found that:
African immigrants are the only residents whose number rose in the sensitive neighbourhoods from 1990 to 1999. They are nearly three times as numerous proportionately in ZUSs than in metropolitan France as a whole (21% compared with 7%).

Over 30% of the North African population is to be found in sensitive neighbourhoods, although the ZUSs contain less than 8% of the total French population.

French nationals were 6.6% of ZUS residents in 1990 and 5.9% nine years later, suggesting white flight led to further segregation and division in society.


Historically heroin was trafficked through the city to the rest of the world because of its ideal geographical location. Heroin is generally trafficked from Afghanistan to Turkey by land and then by boat to Marseille. In addition, cocaine from South America and cannabis from Africa will also be trafficked through Marseilles port. There is a phrase in Marseille, ‘Living the Kalashnikov’ dream. This means anyone can rise from the bottom to the top if they use a Kalashnikov. There are numerous gangs attempting to get a share of the lucrative drug industry, which leads to gang warfare. In estates with high criminality, there are reports of 3-4 drug gangs in operation per estate. Weapons are readily available in the city.
Example ZRU: La Castellane Estate, Marseille

La Castellane is an estate in northern Marseille which resembles a fortress. The estate has a series of ‘choufs’ (Arabic for lookouts) who monitor the external perimeter for police. When police conduct operations in this area, they do not hang about; they strike and withdraw due to the hostility they face on the estate. Police are conducting at least two operations a day into estates like La Castellane and often recover weapons.

During a police operation, boules (heavy metal balls) or blocks of ice kept in the freezer are thrown at police officers and their vehicles from the upper levels of apartment blocks. Police describe their job as becoming more difficult to catch criminals in this area.

Drug gangs in La Castellane have four levels to their hierarchy

  • Boss(es) outside of the estate who receive 50% of the drug sales.
  • Cutters – These are the internal estate bosses who order the drugs into the estate and pass them to the soldiers.
  • Soldiers – Sell drugs, provide choufs with drugs and report to cutters.
  • Chouf – Lookout for police and prospective clients.
This operational model in La Castellane is repeated across estates in Marseille, which are essentially no go areas for police, who can only enter in significant numbers. Once again, the police have ceded control and freedom of movement to the criminals. Violence is increasing and was generally confined to these estates, however, it is now spilling out into Marseille, risking rapid destabilisation of the city.

Molenbeek and Saint Denis

Two other no go zones which have recently been prominent in the media are Saint Denis in Paris and Molenbeek in Brussels. Molenbeek is home to many ethnic Moroccans and Turks and is also one of the country’s poorest areas. It has a 30 per cent unemployment rate, and one in four of its 95,000 inhabitants does not have a Belgian passport. Like gang violence, Islamic radicalism has fed on Molenbeek’s marginalisation, despair and festering resentment of authority. Police say the most dangerous individuals among around 30 Brussels gangs come from Molenbeek. The area has long been a magnet for jihadists, gangs, drugs and lawlessness. Home Affairs Minister Jan Jambon said the government does not have control of the situation in Molenbeek. Molenbeek has been connected to almost all of Belgium’s terrorism-related incidents in recent years.
French-Algerian Mehdi Nemmouche, who killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels last year, spent time in the area. Two suspected terrorists killed by Belgian police in a shootout in the eastern town of Verviers in January 2015 were from Molenbeek. Europe’s most wanted man Salah Abdeslam was wounded in a police raid in Molenbeek.
Saint Denis in Paris also has high unemployment and criminality rates. It is also home to a significant immigrant population. Following the Paris attacks in November 2015, French security forces conducted an operation in Saint Denis killing the ringleader of the Paris attacks and accomplices. The Saint Denis district was likely the planning/operational staging point for the terror attacks which is currently worrying people because of its proximity to the Stade de France, Franceâs national stadium, which will be hosting the 2016 UEFA European Championship in June.


In my introduction, I stated that a no go zone was an area barricaded off to civil authorities by a force or barred to certain individuals or groups where security forces could not operate openly. The examples of Rinkeby and La Castellane highlight that no go zones do exist in Europe. These are areas where police cannot patrol freely without fear of harassment or violence or have to operate in significant numbers for short periods. These areas witness high levels of criminality, and because of the lack of oversight by police, radical preachers can operate freely, leading to radicalised young people and terrorism. In the case of Rinkeby, a section of the Somali community is so radicalised that Jewish people are advised to avoid the area.
Common Themes of No Go Zones:
  • Large immigrant population.
  • A feeling of marginalisation from the rest of society.
  • High levels of poverty, unemployment and criminality – Poverty is a key driver of criminality. There is white flight in these areas leading to communities which are further segregated from the ethnic population. These areas become ghettos, and without effective police oversight, radicals are able to get a foothold.
No go zones are going to likely increase in number.
Conflict, poverty, and population pressures in Africa and the Middle East are causing mass migration to Europe at such a rate that the host nations are finding it impossible to effectively police, never mind assimilate, the new arrivals. These migrants often lack the skills and abilities for the high-tech job market of Europe, leading to unemployment, social deprivation and in many cases, criminality. Remember ZUSs were described as neighbourhoods which are disproportionately poor, lacking in formal education, reliant on social housing with high levels of unemployment. These are all the factors which have led to no go zones, and without effective integration, no go zones will increase in Europe along with radicalisation.
With mass migration, criminality, terrorism and the rise of far-right political parties and self-defence groups, Europe is currently on a path to political, economic and civil turmoil. Security services are currently overstretched in some countries, and the sudden influx of millions of migrants, associated language difficulties and cross-border investigations will only make the problem more acute. Intelligence and police institutions in many European countries are on the path to being completely overwhelmed.
There is also the issue of a clash of civilisations. Many of Europe’s new arrivals have been raised in another religion and represent a radically different culture with different beliefs and values. Two cultures living side by side peacefully is difficult; just take Northern Ireland as an example. That is a country where the people are generally of the same race and speak the same language. What will happen when there are suddenly numerous religions and ethnicities living side by side? If we look back historically at Free Derry, British forces had to mount a massive military operation in 1972 to re-establish control of that no go zone, which was at the beginning of the 30-year war, which ended in 1998.
According to a story appearing in the Telegraph and Daily Mail, a French intelligence source warns that French security forces are preparing contingency plans for the âre appropriation of national territoryâ, meaning using force to re-establish control over largely urban areas dominated by predominately Muslim immigrants, some of them heavily armed with weapons flowing in from the Balkans and Libya.
There are a lot of alienated and angry fourth-generation immigrant kids in the suburbs, and the prospect of radicalisation is increasingly likely,â the source said. French intelligence officials go on to say that surveillance capabilities have been stretched to the breaking point and named several cases where only good fortune prevented a large-scale casualty attack and warn that a French 9/11 may be on the horizon.
Europe is heading for a clash of civilisations, and any reaction by political groups to enforce European cultural dominance will be seen as discrimination, leading to further divisions and, eventually, if the political process cannot solve these issues, possibly conflict. The process I have outlined will take place over a matter of years and decades; however, with the European economy still precariously unstable, should an economic deterioration occur, this process will be significantly quickened.

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