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Fifty beggars evicted from Stockholm square

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Fifty beggars evicted from Stockholm square
Police evict beggars from Sergels Torg in Stockholm. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
09:34 CET+01:00
UPDATED: Dozens of rough sleepers have been evicted from one of the Swedish capital's largest public squares, amid rising concerns about the growing numbers of beggars in Stockholm.

Shortly before six in the morning on Wednesday, officers arrived at Sergels torg near the city’s central station and told a group of Roma beggars that they should remove their belongings before eight o’clock, otherwise they would be thrown away.

According to one rough sleeper speaking to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper, the beggars were told that the area had become “too dirty”. 

Towe Hägg, a spokesperson for Stockholm police told the newspaper that the square was a “commercial area” and that mattresses and cardboard boxes currently being kept there amounted to a violation of Sweden’s Public Order Act.

"The situation has for some time been increasingly untenable with people repeatedly spending the night in the same places around Stockholm, most recently at Sergel torg, where the living environment is anything but acceptable," Elisabeth Ånestad, Deputy Police Area Manager for Stockholm city, said in a separate statement.
 
Extra police officers are expected to be patrolling the square throughout the day, to check that the beggars have moved on. They will also be providing advice on alternative homeless shelters and other housing efforts being organised by the city. Stockholm City Council has employed translators to help improve communication.
 
Ånestad said there was a difficult balance to be struck between helping “very vulnerable people” and keeping the city’s streets safe and secure for others.
 
"It is our task to fight crime and provide security...and to ensure that items placed in contravention of applicable laws are carried away," she argued.
 
Thousands of beggars have arrived in Sweden over the past few years with ninety percent of them travelling from Romania, according to figures released by Stockholm’s Social Administration board in April 2014.

Most of them are members of the Roma community - one of the EU’s largest minority groups - and arrive as EU tourists fleeing poverty under the right to Freedom of Movement.

Speaking to The Local after the evacuation on Wednesday, Veronica Wollgast Karlberg, project manager at the city's Social Services Department told said: "It went very well. It was calm. We have had social workers in the area talking to this group for several weeks to inform them about the laws and the different alternatives they have regarding where to sleep. So they were not shocked this morning".

She said that any EU migrants who did not have a place to stay tonight could go to an emergency shelter set up in Vårberg, a suburb of Stockholm.
 
"We can offer emergency places to stay, emergency food and in some cases we can help them to go back home. We don't have the resources to do more within the boundaries of national laws and this is the big problem. This is a group that can be here legally for three months but they cannot use our system and so in the long term they have to find another place to stay," she added.
 
Sweden and Romania have said they will cooperate and work against fighting poverty within the Roma community, following key talks between ministers from both countries in Stockholm last month.

The parties agreed on a joint statement to be signed at an EU summit on March 9th.

"We will create a framework for how we will share experiences on successful measures," said Rovana Plumb, who is Minister for Labour, Family, Social Protection and Elderly in Romania.

"Local authorities in Romania and Sweden will cooperate and we will prepare projects to achieve common goals for employment and social welfare in both our countries," said Plumb.
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