Norway is going to ban begging.
NewsinEnglish.no reports a majority has been formed to pass a bill that would allow municipalities to impose their own begging bans starting this summer, and a nationwide ban could come sometime next year. A similar ban had been repealed in 2005.
Supporters of the campaign say they will attempt to focus public resources on more targeted ways to assist the country’s impoverished, such as providing further assistance to drug addicts and expanding public housing. A recent poll showed two-thirds of Norwegians support the criminalisation of begging, the FT’s Richard Milne said. At $US100,000, the country has one of the world’s highest per capita GDP levels.
Critics say the proposal is a backdoor-ban on the country’s Roma population, which comprise a large portion of the country’s panhandlers.
“It is very discouraging that the first issue the [governing parties] break with [coalition members] over is of such a shameful unsociable character,” Iselin Nybø of the country’s Liberal Party said. “I am also very disappointed that [the Central Party] sets up to treat the weakest in this way.”
The fate of the Roma has become a “question” in much of Europe, which is usually a really bad sign. There are about 11 million on the continent, still mostly concentrated in south-central Europe but with large populations in Spain and France.
The French government has proven among the most aggressive in targeting its Roma population — it just convicted 26 on charges of running a robbery syndicate, and the interior minister recently caused controversy by arguing only “a minority” of Roma would ever be capable of integrating into French society. As the New York Times’ Dan Bilefsky reported recently, a large chunk of undocumented Roma “live in squalid encampments on the outskirts of French cities.”
Debate over integrating Roma has been around for decades. The greatest successes have come in Spain Bilefsky notes: Of its 750,000 Roma, nearly half are under 25. But almost all finish primary school, although a much smaller percentage complete high school. Spanish Roma living in substandard housing has fallen to 12% from approximately 75% in 1978. “Isidro Rodriguez, the foundation’s director, cited access to free education, health care and social housing following the anti-Roma repression of the Franco years,” Bilefsky wrote.