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Monday, July 22, 2024

Homeless beggars settle around Oslo church

Around 150 homeless beggars, many from Romania who have traveled to Norway in the hopes of earning money, moved into a parking lot adjacent to Oslo’s Sofienberg Church this week, near the heart of the trendy Grünerløkka neighbourhood. They’re seeking refuge after police routed them out of other areas downtown because they were camping illegally.

The migrant beggars have stirred debate in Oslo for months, because of complaints over their illegal urban camps, littering and use of parks and city streets as open toilets. Police estimate as many as 2,000 traveling beggars are living in Oslo this summer.

Both government officials and opposition politicians have called for their expulsion but those with passports from a European country have a legal right to stay in Norway, and expulsion otherwise isn’t possible unless persons have committed a crime. A spokesman for the Roma folk gathered around Sofienberg Church indicated they had no plans to leave, and were seeking the equivalent of church asylum until they’re provided with another place to stay.

“In Italy and Portugal they provide a place where we can be,” one head of a large, jobless family told newspaper Aftenposten. “In Norway we’re just chased around.” Officials in Trondheim, however, offer some camping and sanitation facilities to the beggars in their city, and calls are rising for Oslo to do the same.

City politicians as of Tuesday were holding firm, saying it would be unfair to other homeless groups if special provisions are made for the traveling beggars. Church officials stressed that they didn’t have the resources to provide for the scores of homeless persons now camping outside Sofienberg Church, and neighbours were anxious as well, worrying about the lack of public toilets and garbage containers in the area.

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