Begging has already been banned in some Norwegian communities, and now a government proposal for a nationwide ban would also make it illegal to help beggars. The government’s own support parties are firmly opposed, however, making it unlikely the measure will clear parliament.
Norwegian media gave broad coverage Tuesday morning to the government’s proposal that would criminalize both beggars and those who “cooperate” with beggars, by giving them money or aiding them in any way. Commentators said it was almost difficult to take the proposal seriously, as it would criminalize the operations of local churches and humanitarian organizations such as Kirkens Bymisjon or the Salvation Army.
Church aid groups branded the proposal as unethical, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported they won quick support from both Norway’s largest party, Labour, and the Liberal Party, which has a support agreement with the government. This is one issue where the Liberals made it clear that the government would not receive their support.
“This is not part of our agreement and we will fight it,” Liberals leader Trine Skei Grande told NRK. The government’s other support party, the Christian Democrats, also rejects the proposal and Grande said she hopes the small Center Party, the only one in Parliament that could give the government a majority, will withdraw any support it might offer. Center Party spokesperson Jenny Klinge said her party hadn’t yet seen the details of the government proposal.
The government claimed a ban on begging and helping beggars would help curb human trafficking and other types of crime, especially organized crime. The two government parties, the Conservatives and the Progress Party, noted that many beggars arrive in Norway in groups from Romania and other eastern European countries, raising suspicions of organized criminal activity.
“There are other laws available for fighting human trafficking and organized crime,” Jonas Gahr Støre, head of the Labour Party, told NRK. “And it’s not part of organized crime to offer (a beggar) a cup of hot cocoa or a meal.”