Gothenburg sends beggars home in droves

Gothenburg sends beggars home in droves
File photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Gothenburg is struggling to maintain its image as a welcoming city after sending home more beggars than ever before in 2013. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has meanwhile rejected calls to ban begging.

The city of Gothenburg portrays itself as "soft and more human" when dealing with poor EU migrants, local paper Göteborgs Posten wrote. But the situation is far from black and white.

In 2010 Gothenburg's social services paid for 28 beggars to return home. In 2013 that number was 93. The largest increase of those sent home has been seen with beggars from Romania.

"There's a duplicity in the way the city is reacting," Aaron Israelson, editor at the local homeless magazine Faktum, told GP.

"On the one side they want to put their best foot forward and be seen as the kind city in Sweden, but on the other side they keep evicting people from camps and sending them home."

Dario Espiga, a Social Democrat responisble for social issues on the city council, said that the city has been "generous" in sending beggars home.

"It's better that they are in their homelands during the three months of winter than being here without any place to live," he remarked, calling Israelson's criticism "empty talk". 

Between 2010 and June of 2014, the Gothenburg paid to send home 135 Romanians. Norwegians came in second place, with 35 getting a free ticket home, and Bulgaria came in third with 23 beggars sent home. 

Before the city's social services pay for a beggar's trip home, it is established that the person lacks the capability to pay for the journey. 

On Wednesday Cecilia Magnusson, a Moderate MP from Gothenburg, shocked party members when she suggested that begging be banned in Sweden.

Magnusson's suggestion was met with particularly sharp criticism by her colleagues in her hometown, who generally favour cooperation with volunteer organizations to make life more tolerable for poor EU migrants.

"In Gothenburg we have to work to avoid hardship," Moderate politician Jonas Ransgård said.

Current prime minister and Moderate party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt was also floored by the Magnusson's suggestion, which deviates from the party's established stance.

"I have a very hard time figuring out how she arrived at this conclusion," Reinfeldt told newspaper Expressen. "A ban is not the answer and it is not the party's platform." 

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