Giving money to Roma beggars is not a good idea

Virtually every supermarket in Sweden has a Roma beggar siting outside at the entrance – in all weathers and even when it is -20ºC. About 90% of the thousands in Sweden are thought to be from Romania. Train and bus stations are also well covered. Certainly their presence is almost ubiquitous. The urge to drop any loose change I may have into their bowls is heavily tempered by the conviction that this is well organised begging and is actually a well-oiled “enterprise”. My perception from my limited observations is that the pitches for each beggar are allocated somehow, that they work shifts of about 4 hours per individual and that each is equipped with a mobile phone. They seem to be dropped off and picked up from their allocated positions by car. It seems they are overwhelmingly from Romania, taking advantage of the EU’s free travel arrangements. They are not, I think, receiving any welfare payments.They usually congregate and live in trailer parks, camp sites or other common land in – mainly – run-down caravans.

A petrol station carpark where dozens of beggars live. Photo: The Local

The Roma beggars in Sweden are far less wretched than the beggars I am used to seeing in India but their situation is still pretty awful. Presumably it is not as bad as they would have it back in Romania. Nevertheless my gut feeling has been that putting money in their begging bowls is not a good thing since it can only lead to the conclusion that “begging works”. I suspect that giving money to these beggars will only make it a “successful enterprise” and can only entrench and promote that enterprise. The enterprise will only be discouraged and stop if it is unsuccessful.

The report from a government enquiry has just been published and it seems to support my gut-feeling that giving money to the “begging enterprise” is not a good idea.

The Local (SE)Swedes should not offer cash or welfare services to Roma beggars asking for money in the streets, the lead investigator behind a key national inquiry has said.

Sweden’s national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens, Martin Valfridsson, presented the findings of a major government begging inquiry on Monday alongside equality minister Åsa Regnér.

“I don’t think [giving money to beggars] is what helps individuals out of deep poverty in the long run. I really believe that the money is more useful with organizations in the countries of origin,” he said.

Sweden has experienced a surge in EU migrants – mostly part of the Roma community from Romania and Bulgaria – begging on streets around the country in the past year.

“We see that the number of vulnerable EU citizens have increased sharply. It’s EU citizens who don’t have the right to welfare in Sweden. In 2015 there were up to 5,000 vulnerable EU nationals in Sweden with a small dip after the summer. Of those around 70 are children,” said Valfridsson.

He also suggested that offering places in schools to children of EU migrants could lead to more vulnerable families bringing their children to Sweden while begging in the Nordic country.

“I don’t think we should generally offer schooling to these children,” he said. ……..  Valfridsson further discouraged municipalities from making campsites legally available to Roma travellers.

“That creates new difficulties. Society helps reestablish those slum communities we have worked so frantically to get rid of. The message is that you’re allowed to come here, but if you do you must live here legally. Society must have a strict approach to that you’re not allowed to settle on someone else’s land,” he said.


 

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