Never before have city authorities in Oslo had to deal with so many illegal campgrounds, mostly set up by transient Romanians, as this summer. Police and officials from a city sanitation squad have been raiding camps on a daily basis, and trying to clean up after their illegal occupants.
One of the more popular makeshift campgrounds is behind the Grønland T-bane (metro) station downtown. Newspaper Aften reported that on Wednesday morning, another 11 Romanians were found sleeping under the stars and using nearby bushes as their toilets. The stench was strong, and local property owners and a kindergarten have complained about finding human excrement.
City officials claim the camps pose a health hazard and note that camping is illegal in the city outside designated areas. One Romanian woman, Maria Lisaveta, told a reporter that “we have no money, no food, and no place to sleep.” They have come to Norway to beg for money on the streets, sometimes playing an accordion. “Norway is good, there’s food here,” Lisaveta said.
One man told Aften he had paid EUR 100 to be driven in a car to Oslo. He earns money by going through garbage cans in the hopes of finding cans or bottles that he can turn in for deposit money.
The city reports that its clean-up efforts are costing at least half-a-million kroner and they worry that the constant re-emergence of new camps, old mattresses and tents indicate someone is supplying the Romanians, possible human traffickers.
The city recently tried to hinder begging by demanding beggars to apply for a license from the police. The state police directorate, however, blocked the license demand by claiming that the city then must also demand licenses for street musicians and volunteer fund-raisers who approach people on the street for donations.
A local church charity, Kirkens Bymisjon, said it wished the city would do more to help the Romanian beggars instead of simply cracking down on their camps. It suggested making toilets and showers more available and meeting the beggars with more friendliness and sympathy.
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