Beggars on tour all over Norway

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Organized groups of beggars, mostly from southeastern Europe, are traveling around Norway this summer in hopes of coaxing coins from crowds of more conventional tourists. In a country where coins can be worth as much as USD 3, the begging can be lucrative.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Friday how one group of beggars from Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova were driven from Ålesund last week to Molde this week. Next week they’ll be driven in their mini-bus to Trondheim.

“These are festival beggars,” the chief of the Molde police station, Per Karstein Røv, told Aftenposten. “They’re turning up here during the jazz festival.” Molde Jazz started on Monday, and Røv said “more and more” of the beggars were streaming into the city all week.

Crowd magnets
Norway’s long list of music festivals attract the beggars, confirmed one man from Bulgaria. “We try to find the festivals and drive around to the cities in Norway where there are the most people,” he told Aftenposten.

Beggars turned up in Kongsberg during its jazz festival, in Arendal during its Hove rock festival and in Ålesund during its boat festival. The annual Olavfestdagene in Trondheim next week is also likely to attract the traveling beggars and colleagues selling flowers and other items. They’ve become a fixture on main streets in Oslo, such as Karl Johans Gate.

Begging is legal in Norway, and the country’s relative affluence has attracted groups of beggars. Police in Oslo and elsewhere claim it’s become an organized trade, and new bans are being considered.

Pick-up and delivery
Meanwhile, the begging business has blossomed in recent years. Aftenposten reported how one minibus driver brought his passengers into Molde in the morning and collected them at the end of the day. They camped in parking lots outside the city, either sleeping outdoors or in the vehicle. Aftenposten reported that the driver wasn’t seen begging himself.

Seven such vehicles reportedly have been touring the area from Møre og Romsdal to Sør-Trondelag this summer, after having driven to Norway from southeastern Europe. One driver from Bulgaria told Aftenposten the beggars come from various villages, but wouldn’t say how the groups were organized.

Police say they’re keeping an eye on them, and in Oslo, several camps have been raided because they were set up illegally. Some police officials suspect the organized groups are linked to such crimes as pick-pocketing and burglaries, but Molde and Ålesund had no such incidents to report.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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