11 votes

Eskilstuna – Swedish town launches controversial £21 begging permit

24 comments

  1. [24]
    chembliss
    Link
    This is insane! What's the actual purpose of something like this? I remember in Madrid there's a law that forces you to get a permit if you want to play music on the streets, they made all street...

    This is insane! What's the actual purpose of something like this?

    I remember in Madrid there's a law that forces you to get a permit if you want to play music on the streets, they made all street musicians take an exam (some of them sang songs against the exam). They argued that it was "to improve the city's image". I don't know what happened with that, I think that law still exists but is no longer enforced.

    2 votes
    1. [4]
      Greg
      Link Parent
      I can see the logic there. It could almost act as a positive legal fiction - a sort of engineered catch 22: either you go to the permit office, at which point you're denied a permit and given food...

      “We’ll see where this goes,” Jansson told local media, adding that the permit system should help bring homeless and other vulnerable people in contact with the local authority, in particular social services.

      I can see the logic there. It could almost act as a positive legal fiction - a sort of engineered catch 22: either you go to the permit office, at which point you're denied a permit and given food and shelter instead, or you beg without a permit, at which point you're arrested but the fine is waived and you're given food and shelter instead.

      It only works if the welfare system is both efficient and well funded enough to make those promises, but it's not impossible for it to be a good idea. If the permits are never actually approved, it also circumvents some of the issues of coercion that @imperialismus mentioned and, again, brings the victims into contact with the authorities where they can (hopefully) be better protected.

      Of course, if the authorities are underfunded, uncaring, incompetent or corrupt then it all falls apart quite rapidly.

      10 votes
      1. [3]
        chembliss
        Link Parent
        Didn't think it that way before, but the "if..." you raise at the end is a very likely "if", and it would affect precisely the most helpless part of the population, the people that can't fight...

        Didn't think it that way before, but the "if..." you raise at the end is a very likely "if", and it would affect precisely the most helpless part of the population, the people that can't fight back.

        And I'd be more understanding towards this kind of measure if it went hand in hand with new mechanisms to help and protect the homeless and prevent homelessness, but it doesn't seem to be the case.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          Grzmot
          Link Parent
          We're talking about 1st world country Sweden here, not 3rd world country America.

          Didn't think it that way before, but the "if..." you raise at the end is a very likely "if" [...]

          We're talking about 1st world country Sweden here, not 3rd world country America.

          4 votes
    2. [7]
      imperialismus
      Link Parent
      Seems like the actual purpose is pretty obvious: to discourage begging. A secondary effect would be keeping tabs on the beggars and bringing them into contact with the authorities. Those are the...

      Seems like the actual purpose is pretty obvious: to discourage begging. A secondary effect would be keeping tabs on the beggars and bringing them into contact with the authorities. Those are the stated reasons, straight from one of the politicians who proposed it, as quoted in the article. Begging is illegal in many countries and territories and subject to various restrictions and regulations where it isn’t. Sweden has probably had some of the most liberal laws when it comes to begging in the wealthier parts of Europe.

      I’m not saying I support the law, but I can see where it’s coming from and it’s not actually outrageous as compared to local or national laws in countries such as the US, UK or Denmark.

      From the article:

      Tomas Lindroos, of the Stadsmission charity, said the system increased opportunities for exploitation, pointing out that criminal gangs could pay for people’s permit applications and then demand extortionate repayments.

      This is an unfortunate reality. I don’t think it’s available internationally, but in 2017 the Norwegian state broadcaster published an award-winning documentary called Lykkelandet (Land of Happiness). It detailed a Romanian organized crime network controlling 140 people in Bergen, Norway. They controlled begging, prostitution, narcotics sales, identity theft and violent robberies. The few men on top became rich. Everyone else was a victim. They would lure away underage Romanian girls with promises of a bright future, only to force them into prostitution, begging in the streets, or to act as honeypots for drunk, horny men they intended to rob. The documentary generated a lot of anger and even violence towards beggars, which is sad because the people on the streetcorner are victims, not willing accomplices; many left the city, although they were reportedly back again less than a year later.

      It really made me think twice about the Roma beggars I saw on the streets. I realize that not all of them are likely to be pawns of some vast criminal network, but it makes me wonder how many of them actually get to keep what people give them. I would never suggest it’s outright unethical to give money to beggars, because people are doing it out of compassion, and every once in a while it might even do some good. But I can’t help but think the money would be better spent on charities that run homeless shelters and outreach towards vulnerable people like sex workers, homeless people and addicts rather than giving it directly to individual beggars. And if you are to give them something, make it something like food, then you’re reasonably certain it won’t fund either drugs or go to sinister string-pullers who may or may not exist.

      Personally, I don’t give money to beggars, but I do feel for them. I think even if they are controlled by some criminal network (which I know not all of them are), they are more likely to be exploited victims than willing accomplices. I have shared food and, once or twice, a cigarette when asked by Roma beggars. But by and large, I think I prefer my charity to go to a charitable organization rather than an individual, since I think it’s more likely to make a positive impact on someone’s life that way.

      8 votes
      1. [6]
        chembliss
        Link Parent
        I agree, I don't like the phenomenon of begging either, and I don't give money to beggars, except for when I feel too bad (I'm a bit soft when it comes to people having a hard time). The case of...

        I agree, I don't like the phenomenon of begging either, and I don't give money to beggars, except for when I feel too bad (I'm a bit soft when it comes to people having a hard time).

        The case of Roma (is it frowned upon to say "gipsy" in English? It's a genuine question) is interesting, for many Roma groups begging is almost a traditional activity, reinforced by them being generally excluded (and partly self excluded) from the rest of society. In Spain, the Gitanos, the "traditional" Spanish Roma (will explain later) have been historically killed, jailed, repressed and segregated. During the Franco dictatorship, there was actually an attempt to stop Gitanos from having children. However, after the dictatorship there was a really big and well directed effort to try integrate Gitanos in the Spanish society, and it was quite successful. Of course there are still problems and sometimes tension, but overall Gitanos are living in houses (not in the streets or nomadic), not getting married before 18, sending their children to school and even college, paying taxes and generally participating more and more as equals to the Payos (the name for non-Gitanos). Not bad for a group of people that lived mostly in a clandestine way, off crime and in the constant threat of being murdered or jailed a mere 50 years ago.

        However, during the last decade there are more and more Roma begging in the streets, and Roma gangs are appearing again. But they are not the Gitanos, they're Roma from Eastern Europe, which means they are culturally closer to the Gitanos of 50 years ago than of the Gitanos today, which are closer to the Payos than to them. This is quite a big problem and there's no clear solution. But it illustrates well the success of the efforts for the integration of Gitanos, and that there are other solutions to punishing marginal groups, even if they're currently living off crime or begging. Let's hope those lessons are applied to the case of the Eastern Roma too, instead of repression.

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          alyaza
          Link Parent
          yes--because roma mostly consider it a slur--although most people aren't really aware of that and use it.

          (is it frowned upon to say "gipsy" in English? It's a genuine question)

          yes--because roma mostly consider it a slur--although most people aren't really aware of that and use it.

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            chembliss
            Link Parent
            Didn't know that, thanks. Some people here have started saying Roma instead of Gitanos, that doesn't make much sense because Gitanos call themselves Gitanos and are proud of that name. I didn't...

            Didn't know that, thanks. Some people here have started saying Roma instead of Gitanos, that doesn't make much sense because Gitanos call themselves Gitanos and are proud of that name. I didn't know if something similar was happening in English or if Gypsy was considered a slur by them, which I see it's the case. Thanks for the info!

            2 votes
            1. spit-evil-olive-tips
              Link Parent
              There's also an English idiom "to gyp" which is falling out of favor for the same reasons.

              There's also an English idiom "to gyp" which is falling out of favor for the same reasons.

              1 vote
        2. [2]
          imperialismus
          Link Parent
          In Scandinavia we have tatere, Roma people who came here starting in the 1500s. In Norway, some of them were forcibly sterilized in the 1930s under anti-vagrancy laws (as part of a wider eugenics...

          In Scandinavia we have tatere, Roma people who came here starting in the 1500s. In Norway, some of them were forcibly sterilized in the 1930s under anti-vagrancy laws (as part of a wider eugenics movement to deal with ‘undesirables’ like mentally ill/disabled people, criminals, and people without permanent residence). But today, the ones that remain are fairly well integrated. They’ve been in the country a long time.

          These beggars coming from Romania and Bulgaria, though, seem to have no intention of becoming permanent residents or being integrated and assimilated by larger society. They want to collect money here and send them back to relatives in South-Eastern Europe. There’s quite a big difference between people who come to a country to stay (even if they may lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle) and people who only see it as a place to go for seasonal work to support families in a different country. Reaching them isn’t gonna be possible with the same kind of policies as people who are actual residents of the country.

          Of course, going to Norway or Sweden to work and sending money home to your family in Eastern Europe was not exactly as easy 500 years ago as it is today.

          4 votes
          1. chembliss
            Link Parent
            That seems to be a situation very similar to the situation here, then. It surely has no easy solution. I need to think this over, as I never had really given much thought into it. Thanks for your...

            That seems to be a situation very similar to the situation here, then. It surely has no easy solution. I need to think this over, as I never had really given much thought into it. Thanks for your comments so far.

            1 vote
    3. [2]
      jgb
      Link Parent
      I suppose the argument is that in a country with a welfare system as expansive as that in Sweden, there is no good reason for someone to be begging in the street. I would be interested in anything...

      I suppose the argument is that in a country with a welfare system as expansive as that in Sweden, there is no good reason for someone to be begging in the street. I would be interested in anything that argues this point of view in more depth than the brief allusions to it in the linked article.

      5 votes
      1. chembliss
        Link Parent
        That's unlikely. I don't know Sweden first hand, but I do know Spain, which has a pretty well developed welfare system, probably not as big as Sweden but likely equitable when it comes to help for...

        there is no good reason for someone to be begging in the street

        That's unlikely. I don't know Sweden first hand, but I do know Spain, which has a pretty well developed welfare system, probably not as big as Sweden but likely equitable when it comes to help for the poorest. And there are beggars, and quite a lot in the big cities (it's true that almost none in the smaller ones).

        Why do people end up begging in Sweden, or in Spain? I don't think anyone enjoys being a beggar. Forbidding it and punishing beggars is easy, what is actually hard is figuring out what leads people to end up in that situation and put an end to the causes.

        2 votes
    4. [11]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [10]
        chembliss
        Link Parent
        I get what you're saying, but won't it have the same effect on national beggars? And if "bad experiences" means something worse and more illegal than begging, I'm not sure it will stop them.

        I get what you're saying, but won't it have the same effect on national beggars? And if "bad experiences" means something worse and more illegal than begging, I'm not sure it will stop them.

        1 vote
        1. [4]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. [3]
            chembliss
            Link Parent
            I agree they're not bad people, I just thought you meant that they were pickpocketing or something like that. And why would national beggars be able to pay it and foreign not?

            I agree they're not bad people, I just thought you meant that they were pickpocketing or something like that.

            And why would national beggars be able to pay it and foreign not?

            1 vote
            1. [3]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. [2]
                chembliss
                Link Parent
                I understand that, but do you think that fee is high enough for having that effect? As it's in just one city, couldn't that be more directed towards driving them out of that city, but not back to...

                I understand that, but do you think that fee is high enough for having that effect? As it's in just one city, couldn't that be more directed towards driving them out of that city, but not back to their country?

                1 vote
                1. [2]
                  Comment deleted by author
                  Link Parent
                  1. chembliss
                    Link Parent
                    I think I get better now the intention of this law, and it doesn't seem that bad (we'll see). However, I hope at the same time there are efforts to ease the situation for people that depends on...

                    I think I get better now the intention of this law, and it doesn't seem that bad (we'll see). However, I hope at the same time there are efforts to ease the situation for people that depends on begging to survive, and to avoid that anyone ends up in that situation. In my experience in Madrid, the homeless are the last priority.

                    2 votes
        2. imperialismus
          Link Parent
          I don't know if it's the same in Sweden, but in my experience living in a medium-sized Norwegian city (about 3 times the size of Eskilstuna), there were almost no native beggars. I regularly saw...

          I don't know if it's the same in Sweden, but in my experience living in a medium-sized Norwegian city (about 3 times the size of Eskilstuna), there were almost no native beggars. I regularly saw Eastern European beggars. I also saw many natives selling street magazines, probably living off of that and government benefits which are not available to foreign nationals. But no natives begging on the street, nor any Eastern Europeans selling the street magazines that are meant to keep people from having to beg, let them have a job and give them some dignity. The stigma of begging is strong enough that, combined with strong social security meaning few people are truly without any income, very few Norwegians actually beg. I imagine it's similar in Sweden. It seems fairly clear that this Swedish law is mostly targeting foreign beggars.

          2 votes
        3. [5]
          iiv
          Link Parent
          National beggars is basically a non-issue. They have access to government benefits and can often sell things like magazines.

          National beggars is basically a non-issue. They have access to government benefits and can often sell things like magazines.

          1 vote
          1. [4]
            chembliss
            Link Parent
            Aren't immigrants entitled to access the same benefits as long as they're legal residents?

            Aren't immigrants entitled to access the same benefits as long as they're legal residents?

            1 vote
            1. iiv
              Link Parent
              I'm not sure actually, but it doesn't matter. They don't beg to survive, they beg to send the money back to their home country.

              I'm not sure actually, but it doesn't matter. They don't beg to survive, they beg to send the money back to their home country.

              2 votes
            2. [3]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. [2]
                chembliss
                Link Parent
                What's the difference between free movement and legal residence? I'm Spanish and lived for some years in France, and I just had to register as European resident there, not ask for any residence...

                What's the difference between free movement and legal residence? I'm Spanish and lived for some years in France, and I just had to register as European resident there, not ask for any residence permit.

                1 vote
                1. [2]
                  Comment deleted by author
                  Link Parent
                  1. chembliss
                    Link Parent
                    Well, didn't know that, and it makes sense because I went there as a student. Also, I've been checking it out and it seems that different countries have different requirements for registration....

                    Well, didn't know that, and it makes sense because I went there as a student.

                    Also, I've been checking it out and it seems that different countries have different requirements for registration. Spain is quite more lax about that (to make it easier for retired EU tourists to live here, I guess), for example.

                    1 vote