New begging restrictions loom

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State officials from various political parties are once again mounting efforts to limit begging on the streets of Oslo and elsewhere in Norway. While proposals range from an outright ban to time restrictions, many of the Roma people who now do the most begging in Oslo went along with orders to break up their latest camp in the hills above the capital.

State politicians are now seriously considering renewed restrictions on begging in Norway. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

A collection of tents that had been set up illegally near the lake Sognsvann, which lies at the end of a popular Oslo metro line, was taken down by a professional cleaning firm hired by Statsbygg, the state agency in charge of public property. The Roma camp was described as filthy, and strewn with the remains of food, garbage and human excrement.

“It was indescribable conditions divided between two camps that together covered around 700-800 square meters of forest,” Siv Ersdal of the cleaning firm Grønt og Rent (Green and Clean) told news bureau NTB. “We have taken down around 20 tents and ordered containers with room for 70 cubic meters of garbage. It’s possible we’ll need more.”

The camp was ordered vacated because it violated laws against camping anywhere more than three days in a row unless in a certified campground. The Roma folk that settled in the area after also being ordered to leave their makeshift camps downtown and even in a gravel pit earlier this year had voluntarily left before the cleaning crews showed up on Monday.

Around 60 Roma later broke into an abandoned building at Bredtvet in the Groruddalen area of Oslo. Police arrived quickly, however, and ordered them to leave. Brønnulv Evenrud, spokesman for the Roma’s support group Folk er Folk (People are People) told NTB that a “large group of Roma folk” had then gathered at a Salvation Army facility on Urtegata in the hopes of getting food and shelter. “Now they’re without tents, tarps, mattresses or blankets,” Evenrud said.

The growing presence of the migrant poor in Norway has been an ongoing issue all year, and city officials gave in to providing some facilities for them last summer. Local regulations against public camping and defecation have been continually violated, though, and now city officials want to limit the begging that hasn’t been illegal under state law since 2005.

Several political parties, including the Center Party, the Conservatives and the Progress Party, want to reinstate a ban on begging, also to discourage more migrant poor from traveling to Norway. The Labour Party proposes restricting begging, but setting specific time limits on when it would be legal during the day and also allowing local governments to set their own rules.

Other parties including the Christian Democrats don’t want to criminalize begging but seek other forms of limits, with the Socialist Left, for example, preferring a requirement that beggars register with the police, as is done in Bergen.

Police recommend a ban on begging, claiming that many of the beggars also are involved in criminal activity. The issue is due for more debate in parliament.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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