Government wants to expel beggars

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Norway’s left-center government plans to put forth a proposal in Parliament that would allow police to deport foreign beggars believed to be part of organized groups or victims of human trafficking. The proposal is a reaction to the large numbers of beggars who have arrived in Norway in recent years, many from Romania.

Earlier laws against begging were overturned in 2006 and begging thus remains legal in Norway. In 2007, however, beggars from Romania and Bulgaria started arriving in force after both countries became members of the EU and their citizens could more easily cross borders.

Complaints have risen ever since, especially over Romanian beggars who often are viewed as aggressive and part of organized networks. Many have also been charged with setting up illegal camps around town and violating local sanitation regulations.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Friday that a new law aimed at expelling beggars who are managed by organized backers will be put forth later this year. Justice Minister Grete Faremo stressed that begging will in general remain legal and that the new law won’t discriminate between Norwegians and others.

“It can’t be ruled out, though, that organized groups and human traffickers are involved in the begging,” Faremo told Aftenposten. A measure aimed specifically at foreign beggars in Norway is one of 35 proposals in a new plan aimed at battling human trafficking.

Whole groups can’t be expelled, she said, since the law can only address individual situations. “It’s the individual person’s behaviour and circumstances around the begging that will be decisive,” Faremo said. “Begging alone won’t necessarily trigger a need for expulsion out of consideration for public order.”

She conceded that police would have to closely watch beggars to reveal signs of human trafficking or other criminal offenses. It remained unclear how the government would go after those behind any alleged human trafficking.

Some groups immediately criticized the government initiative against begging including Kirkens Bymisjon, a church-based organization that attends to the needs of drug addicts and the homeless. A spokesman for the group claimed most begging is a result of poverty, discrimination and lack of opportunity, and that expulsions would further victimize beggars.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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