75 percent support ban on begging

Three out of four Norwegians support a proposed ban on begging, according to a new survey, and only 18 percent are opposed. Meanwhile, a large group of migrant beggars who set up camp outside an Oslo church earlier this week aren’t likely to be allowed to stay there.

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang of the Conservative Party is among those proposing a ban on begging, in an effort to discourage thousands of homeless people, many of them from southeastern Europe, from traveling to Norway to live off others’ spare change. The Progress Party, Norway’s most conservative party, not only wants a ban but also proposes throwing all “Romanian beggars” out of the country. That call stirred controversy but it now appears Norwegians’ patience with begging and illegal camping and littering that’s spread to many cities and towns  is wearing thin.

‘Wish I could help’
“As a fellow human being, I wish I could help every single one of them, but I see that if we make accommodations for those begging, we will lure thousands into coming here,only to degrade themselves,” Stang, of the Conservative Party, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He favours continued efforts to help finance  social improvements in the beggars’ homelands.

According to a survey conducted by research firm Ipsos MMI for newspaper Dagbladet, Stang has a vast majority of Norwegians behind him. Fully 75 percent of the 600 persons questioned favour a ban on begging, 18 percent are opposed and the rest undecided.

The cities of Bergen, Trondheim and Kristiansand all require beggars to register with the local police, a measure that reduced the number of  beggars in Bergen by roughly a third after it took effect. While police in Bergen believe it scared off many of the migrant homeless, the acting police chief in Oslo, Roger Andresen, doesn’t think registration would solve the problem in Oslo because there are so many beggars to monitor. Andresen said he has more faith in a ban, saying it should be possible to ban begging for all persons who are not Norwegian citizens.

Church camp’s days are numbered
City health officials found no immediate health hazards at the migrants’ camp outside Sofienberg Church in Oslo, where around 200 Roma folk and others sought refuge from what they claimed was police harassment. Church officials don’t want to chase them away, but worry the sanitation situation will worsen over time and the church has no resources to care for all the homeless now camping on their doorstep.

Stian Berger Røsland, who heads Oslo’s city government as byrådsleder, also from the Conservatives, made it clear on Thursday that the camp won’t be allowed to remain even though it’s on church, not city, property. The church is adjacent to a popular city park and surrounded by a residential urban neighborhood.

“This is an area that’s used by many, it’s a public area,” Røsland told reporters at a press conference on Thursday. He said he’s asked the church to remove the camp as soon as possible, and church officials have agreed they can’t allow the camp to remain.

“There are good reasons why we don’t allow camping in parks in Norway,” Røsland said during a visit to the camp on Wednesday. “I hope this situation will be resolved quickly.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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