Swedish tourists are begging on the streets of Melbourne in order to help fund their trips during the holiday season, with the region’s police force, Melbourne City Council and the Salvation Army all raising concerns about the problem.
According to Australian newspaper The Herald Sun, one in three beggars are international tourists, with the majority coming from Sweden and Germany. Most are said to be men under the age of 30.
Australia has long been one of the most popular destinations for young Swedes seeking to improve their English and escape the harsh Scandinavian climate.
“Some of those international backpackers are operating on a very tight budget and so in their minds, they see it as OK to beg to try to raise additional funds,” Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle told the newspaper.
The Australian Salvation Army has asked people living in Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia not to give money to any bogus beggars.
Begging is against the law in the Australian state of Victoria and Melbourne’s Lord Mayor told The Herald Sun that international backpackers risked arrest.
“Tourists may not be aware that begging is illegal in Victoria and it’s important that we communicate with them and put them in contact with the services they need.”
Speaking to Swedish news agency TT, Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said it had not heard of any Swedes begging in Australia.
It is not the first time that Swedes have been spotted begging abroad. In April this year, The Local Spain reported that there were dozens of homeless Swedes begging in tourist hotspots like Tenerife and Mallorca.
The reported rise in Swedes asking for money in other countries comes as the number of foreign beggars in Sweden continues to rise.
Thousands have arrived in Sweden over the past two years, with ninety percent of them travelling from Romania, according to national figures released in April.