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Swedish professor: Ban begging handouts

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A beggar pictured in Stockholm in 2013. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT
09:44 CET+01:00
A leading Swedish professor has said that it should be illegal for people to give money to beggars but his idea has been described as a "joke" by campaigners.

Bo Rothstein, a political science professor long associated with the University of Gothenburg, made the argument for a begging donation ban in an opinion editorial in Dagens Nyheter. 

"Anybody who begs in front of us on the street doesn't offer anything apart from their social vulnerability and the person that gives is exploiting their situation to get satisfaction and ease their social conscience," wrote Rothstein in the newspaper.

The 59-year-old Malmö native drew a parallel with a ban on begging with Sweden's law on buying sex where the client is punished rather than the prostitute. He argued that a ban would only work if fundamental changes to the system were implemented.

"A ban must be followed by some form of sanctions if they are to have some effect...at the same time it must be clear that more charity and continued street begging isn't the solution to these people's social misery," Rothstein wrote.

His words were met with scepticism by campaigners who are working with vulnerable people on a daily basis.

"My initial reaction was that it was a joke. But unfortunately we probably have to take a professor who is writing in DN seriously," said Aaron Israelson, editor of Faktum magazine which is sold by the homeless, told Göteborg Posten.

He added; "I don't think that Rothstein has developed the way of thinking and shown no evidence or theories."

Anna Johansson of the Stockholm city mission said that people being on the streets begging was a "symptom" that poverty exists all around the world.

"In order to address the root of the problem we must engage in dialogue at international and European level in particular the most affected countries, for example Romania," she told the TT news agency.

Rothstein had mentioned in his opinion editorial that many of the beggars were coming from eastern Europe, in particular Romania, fleeing what he described as "social destitution."

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"I am convinced that nothing else, and especially no more hand outs, will be able to provide these people with a dignified life," he wrote.

It is estimated that there are 34,000 homeless people in Sweden. Soup kitchens have been set up in the larger cities over the past two years to tackle the issue.  

The Local/pr 

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