Half of Swedes Want to Ban Begging

A homeless man sleeps on the street in Stockholm in this February 18, 2012 file photo. SWEDEN-INEQUALITY/ Leif R Jansson/Scanpix Sweden/REUTERS

A new survey has revealed that almost a half of all Swedes want to ban begging. The Local reported that Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet has posed the question: 'Is it a good or bad idea to ban begging?' and 49% of respondees said that it was a good idea.

This result is is a marked increase from September when the same question was posed and 36% said they would ban begging. Another news agency carried out a similar survey and reported that 56% of people who answered supported a ban. In the last three years thousands of beggars have arrived in Sweden with 90% coming from Romania.

In February last year the Romanian ambassador to Sweden wrote an article in the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter saying that the country allowing people to beg "does not facilitate Romania's efforts to achieve social inclusion and increased employability", indicating that he was in support of a ban on begging.

The Local interviewed several Romanian beggars earlier this year who explained that they can make more money begging in Sweden than when officially employed. "In Romania I don't have a job," said one 23-year-old Romanian man. "It's the same here. I worked a bit in construction but I make more money here begging." Another told the publication she and her husband took it in turn to beg in order to secure enough money for their two children.

The Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven was quick to offer assurances that such a ban on begging would not be implemented under his government, saying "Legislating against poverty is a waste of time."

Earlier this year in Norway, Europe's richest country, the government proposed a law which would have not only outlawed begging but also have made it a criminal offence to give money to someone. The plan was later dropped following criticism from campaigners and opposition parties.

At the time, the Norwegian justice minister Vidar Brein-Karlsenhas indicated that the law was designed to target 'organised begging', supposedly targeting the number of Roma organised crime groups operating in the country. "We need to give the police the legal authority to crack down on people who arrange for beggars to get here, often in large groups," Brein-Karlsenhas said.