Norwegian populists want begging ban, opposition says the law targets Romani people
The Norwegian Government is planning to ban begging in public spaces. The proposal is part of an amendment to a law that Parliament began discussing yesterday.
The law would make it possible for municipalities to ban begging on their territories starting in July. The ban would then apply to the country as a whole as of 2015.
The opposition is criticizing the law as intentionally targeting Romani people. Those violating the controversial law would risk a fine and a sentence of up to three months in prison.
Justice Minister Anders Anundsen of the populist right-wing Progress Party has defended the law by referencing a direct connection between begging and crime. He believes beggars often commit pickpocketing as well.
The minister's critics from the ranks of the left-wing opposition, however, are charging that the Government's law is targeting ethnic Roma. According to Bård Vegar Solhjell of the Socialist Left Party, the Government wants to indirectly restrict immigration through the law.
Solhjell compared the amendment to the measures enacted in the Norwegian Constitution 200 years ago to ban Jewish people from entering the country. Moreover, according to many experts, the law might even result in rising crime rates.
Beggars now working in Norway would allegedly be forced to procure their subsistence through petty crime should the law be adopted. There were reportedly approximately 200 beggars in the Norwegian capital in 2012, only seven of whom had Norwegian citizenship.
The Justice Ministry claims most of beggars are ethnic Roma with Romanian citizenship. Statewide bans on begging are currently in force in Denmark and Great Britain.
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