Sweden has seen a surge in begging in recent years, with a study this week suggesting that around 4,000 vulnerable EU migrants are now living in the Nordic nation, with many of them asking for money on the streets.
In a debate article published in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, two senior politicians from Sweden’s largest opposition party, the Moderates have called for a ban on organized begging, as part of efforts to stop ringleaders making money from other migrants.
“The Moderates do not want to prohibit individuals from begging but we cannot accept comprehensive and organized begging in the country," Moderate party secretary Tomas Tobé and former Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask wrote.
Their article does not clearly define what exactly counts as "organized" begging, but the authors refer to a report presented by the County Administrative Board in Stockholm last year, which estimated that between 300 and 500 people were suspected of managing the begging of others. This was based on information sourced from police, municipalities and charities.
"The number of beggars and the extensive distribution across the country suggests…organized and structured activities,” read the article.
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The debate piece states that most of the beggars come from other EU nations such as Romania and Bulgaria and therefore have the right to live in Sweden under laws on freedom of movement.
But the authors argue that "freedom is not absolute” and that in some cases it should be restricted on the grounds of public order, security or health.
They also call for a review of Swedish laws that currently allow legal camping almost anywhere.
The article has already provoked a strong debate on social media, with critics arguing that begging is a symptom of poverty and discrimination and calling for politicians to do more to tackle its root causes instead.
But a recent survey by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet suggested that one in two Swedes was currently in favour of some kind of begging ban.
Martin Valfridsson, who recently became Sweden’s debut national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens, has been meeting municipalities and charities around the country as part of his efforts to better coordinate cooperation between the different groups that are currently providing aid and assistance to poor EU migrants.
Sweden and Romania have also promised to work more closely together to help vulnerable EU migrants living in both nations.