Cities reject state government’s plan to help and control beggars

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City governments in Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø and Bodø are among those turning down new funding offered by the left-center state government to both accommodate and control Norway’s growing problems posed by migrant beggars. The cities claim the state’s plan is unworkable and won’t help.

Justice Minister Grete Faremo of the Labour Party finally unveiled how her left-center government intends to cope with the increasing numbers of migrant beggars, mostly from Romania, who are arriving in Norway. Police and local officials fear their numbers will swell further as the warmer summer months set in, but Faremo’s plans for dealing with the influx were not well-received.

Severe sanitation issues
The beggars (called tiggere in Norwegian) have been causing problems in cities all over Norway, by ignoring local ordinances against sleeping outdoors in populated areas, littering and, worse, defecating on city streets and in public parks. On Tuesday, the management at Norway’s Botantical Gardens in Oslo’s Tøyen district announced they will open the gardens later in the morning and close earlier in the evening because they’ve been finding human excrement every day. They hope less accessibility to the gardens will result in less human waste and ease sanitation concerns.

The city, for a brief period, set up portable toilets in the area but later removed them, to discourage the migrants from camping nearby. Now the state government is offering NOK 10 million in its revised state budget released on Tuesday to municipal governments around the country to help fund new “acute” measures to deal with the sanitation problems created by the migrant beggars. Faremo says the money can be used for such things as providing portable toilets, showers and food, but city officials, at least in local governments run by non-socialist parties opposing Labour, aren’t interested. They don’t want to accommodate the beggars for fears even more will arrive in their cities.

‘Crackdown’
Faremo insists the state government is trying to crack down on the beggars, introducing other measures such as allowing local governments to prohibit begging in certain areas and restrict it to certain times of the day. The state will also make petty crimes often tied to beggars, such as shoplifting and pick-pocketing, offenses punishable by deportation.

Both police and city officials believe such measures will be nearly impossible to enforce and therefore are unworkable. They continue to demand reinstatement of a national ban on begging, which a majority of Norwegians also favours, but Faremo said the government can’t and won’t impose an outright ban.

The state will send another NOK 300 million (USD 50 million) to the countries where many of the beggars are citizens, including Romania, in the hopes more can get help at home and stay home. The billions in Norwegian aid already sent hasn’t seemed to stop the flow of migrants from eastern Europe, though, and police continue to brace for a new influx over the next few months.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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