• Sweden's news in English

Begging scheme seeks to button up critics

The Local · 23 Jan 2015, 13:00

Published: 23 Jan 2015 13:00 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
A group of long persecuted individuals, who centuries ago migrated from the far east toward Europe, the Roma community has only recently started spreading rapidly on the north of the continent.
And many Swedes have had a hard time both understanding and coping with the unfamiliar sight of increasing numbers of Roma beggars asking for money on the streets of their socialist cities.
The surge in Roma people in Sweden began around two years ago. Rising numbers seeking to escape poverty and discrimination in their own birth nations (predominantly Romania and Bulgaria) started spending days travelling by road across Europe before ending up in what they hoped would be Scandinavian safe haven.
Members of the Roma community have been an increasingly visible sight in Sweden. Photo: TT
While numbers are hard to track, it is estimated that about 1,000 entered Sweden last year.
As EU migrants, they have the right to visit Sweden as EU tourists under the right to Freedom of Movement, without the need for a visa or a work permit.
After speedbumps over the last several months in addressing the issue, Sweden's Ministry of Social Affairs held talks on January 23rd in Stockholm with its Romanian counterpart to try to come up with lasting solutions.
Meanwhile, on the ground, the debate roars and one couple from Gothenburg has decided to try to make a difference on their own.
Rosie and Staffan Erixon first launched their campaign 'Ejtiggare' (which translates to 'Not beggars') to try to alter perceptions of the EU migrants. 
"We want to try to get people to be more open minded and try to understand the situation," Rosie Erixon told The Local on Thursday. 
"Some people really don't know how to deal with the phenomenon."
The breakthrough initiative, first launched last August in Gothenburg, and running in Ronneby, south of Sweden since last week, has the Roma migrants - alongside other economically disadvantaged individuals - selling buttons (also known as pins or badges in some English-speaking countries).
Each badge displays the initiative's name alongside other positive messages and slogans, and cost 20 kronor each.
The aim, said Erixon, is to help change perceptions while assisting the beggars, who she insists want to work.
"We thought to ourselves, it's just not possible in a country like Sweden, where we are so far ahead in so many different ways, that we have not come up with a way to help these people," she added.
"So we said let's do something and not just talk about it. And that's what we did."
"If you give people responsibilities, they take them - they work," Erixon told The Local. "In Sweden, we have been treating them as beggars instead of individuals, as human beings - calling them beggars instead of people."
Between two to three hundred workers have been selling the buttons, with a highly successful public reaction, according to her husband Steffan Erixon.
"It has been going very well, in Gothenburg and now in Ronneby," he said.
"We have received so many requests from people across the country who want to get involved, but we are keen that this moves forward the right way, in a sustainable way, so we are careful about just taking donations. We want to make a lasting change."
"We help people who want to take the help and want to work," he added. "And contrary to popular belief, that is the case for many of them."
'Ejtiggare' will launch a new newsletter in the spring entitled 'Situation Sweden' and its employees will be commissioned to sell it alongside the buttons.
The 'Ejtiggare' staff, donning formal orange coats, are entitled to keep half of the 20 kronor they earn per button sold, with the remaining 10 kronor put in a 'bank' to be used for additional needs of the workers.
"Many of these people had jobs previously - as chefs, nurses, in construction and so on," said Rosie. 
Story continues below…
"Others came with a limited amount of money, or promises of work here in Sweden, and those plans simply failed," she added.
Rosie noted that because the migrants carry EU passports - most commonly from Romania, Greece, or Italy, they are not entitled to the nation's free Swedish course program, SFI, unlike some non-EU citizens here on asylum grounds. This means they would have to pay for Swedish courses themselves - perhaps slowing their road to integration.
But the project is working on providing them with free Swedish courses.
"They don't have to speak, they simply greet passerbys with a card written in Swedish, explaining the project," said Rose. "The approach has really worked well. People have been fantastic."
The project she said, is also empowering a community of people who have felt scorn and resentment from the public.
"There's something about standing up which is so different than sitting down, with no eye contact , no interaction. Now they are standing, and this helps them feel human again."
Staffan echoed her thoughts:
"When they come out in an organized form with jackets and pins, they feel that people like them better. And this project has at the very least proved that they actually can by themselves decide to stand up and work."

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
US election
Donald Trump won't get new Ericsson head's vote
Trump pictured at a campaign rally in Florida. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

The new Swedish-American boss of telecoms giant Ericsson has revealed he will not vote for the Republican nominee in the forthcoming US presidential election.

Swedes named fourth most gender equal in the world
A file photo of men and women pushing prams in Stockholm. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Sweden has closed 81 percent of its overall gender gap according to the World Economic Forum.

Sweden: Russian warships in the Baltic 'worrying'
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Two Russian warships equipped with long-range missiles have entered the Baltic Sea after passing Denmark.

Why businesses are worried about Sweden's drone ban
A drone filming in Stockholm. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The Local investigates what Sweden's new drone ban could mean for businesses in the country.

This is the new top boss of Swedish Ericsson
Börje Ekholm. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Telecoms giant Ericsson has appointed a new CEO after a turbulent year for the company.

These are Sweden's best universities: ranking
A new university ranking has been released. Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/Imagebank.sweden.se

At least according to this global ranking, which picks 12 Swedish universities among the top-1000.

Swedish pharmacies restrict paracetamol sales for teens
The move is intended to cut paracetamol overdoses. Photo: Nora Lorek/TT

Sweden's pharmacies are banning teens under 18 from buying more than one pack of pills at a time.

The Local List
12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations
A filthy-minded lobster, i.e. a snuskhummer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

One of our favourite things about the Swedish language is its wonderful compound words, which range from being utterly bizarre to making perfect sense.

Rwandan genocide suspect held in Sweden
A memorial centre in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

A man has been arrested in Sweden suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.

Sweden can extend border controls, EU says
A police officer carrying out a check at Sweden's border with Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

EU countries including Sweden should be granted permission to extend temporary border controls by a period of a further three months, the European Commission has decided.

Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available