Norway Seeks to Criminalize Begging

In one of the world's richest countries, it may soon become illegal for homeless individuals to beg for money or other means of assistance.

In one of the world’s richest countries, it may soon become illegal for homeless individuals to beg for money or other means of assistance. In fact, 60% of Norway’s population believes that begging should be a crime. The country aims to ban begging, and those who are caught may be fined with up to three months in prison.

According to The Financial Times (FT), if this new law is passed, it will allow local municipalities to introduce an immediate ban on begging that will take effect nationally by summer 2015.

However in-humanitarian this movement may be, it seems the Norwegians in favor of such a law agree with it because a majority of beggars in Norway are not residents. Nova research institute released a report that claims there are up to 1,000 foreign beggars among the country’s 5 million population.

FT told Himanshu Gulati, State Secretary at the Justice Ministry and member of the Populist Progress Party,“In the past few years we have seen an increase in beggars in many cities and towns in Norway and we have a deep concern for the association between the flow of beggars from outside Norway and organized criminality.”

Those that oppose such viewpoint argue that such a law is shameful and unfairly targets the most vulnerable. Opposition politicians also claim that the measures could spoil the international image of the country, especially following the debates on whether Norway should shelter Syrian refugees.

 “The [begging] ban is very bad and it sends out a very bad signal. It is not that all beggars are criminals or that the problem is so big. It is more like it seems to be a ban to help us to not meet them, the needy who are sitting on our streets,” Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, justice spokesman for the Christian Democrats, was quoted in the FT.

Source: Reuters, Sergey Karpukhin

Source: Reuters, Sergey Karpukhin

Frode Sulland, the head of defense group at the Norwegian Bar Association, said that the ban could counter European human rights rules.

You can go to almost any city in Europe and there will be a bigger problem with beggars than there is in Oslo. We think there is a right for everybody to ask everybody else for help. This is an activity that in itself doesn’t harm anybody,” spoke Sulland.

Whether such a law will pass remains to be seen. Apparently a similar anti-begging ban was overturned in 2005.

But in a country that has the highest GDP per capita – at about $100,000 in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund – perhaps a solution not severing the symptom can be offered so that real, long-term solution may be realized.



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