Article Norway: Begging to Become Illegal Again

(July 16, 2014) As of July 1, 2014, Norwegian municipalities have the right to make begging illegal. Members of the governing parties of the Stortinget (the country’s legislature) made a compromise with the Center Party (Senterpartiet) to acknowledge the right of self-governance of municipalities; specifically, their right to regulate begging locally. As part of the compromise plan, begging will become illegal nationally in Norway next summer by decision of the Storting. Responsible parliament members defend the decision to delay action by saying that national criminalization of begging requires due legislative research, including investigation of the issue by a legislative committee. (Kommunalt förbud mot tiggeri i Norge, SVD (June 10, 2014).)

Critics of the new prohibition are especially outraged by the circumvention of the Stortinget by the municipalities, which allows for the prohibition to take effect much sooner than had a thorough investigation into the matter been made by the parliament. (Id.) Begging was previously illegal in Norway until 2005, but the prohibition was not enforced. (Tigging, LOVDATA (Feb. 4, 2013).)

The decision comes in the wake of increased migration of beggars from Romania and Bulgaria to other European nations under the European Union principle of right of free movement of people. (Deal Opens Way to National Begging Ban, LOCAL (June 11, 2014).) During 2013, the Norwegian state spent NOK10 million (about US$1.7 million) on humanitarian efforts to assist EU migrant beggars. (Tilskudd i 2013 til humanitære tiltak rettet mot EØS borgere som kommer til Norge for åtigge, Justis- og Beredskapsdepartementet [Ministry of Justice and Public Security] website (Mar. 17, 2014).)

Commentators argue that the Romani beggars will be hit hardest by the local prohibition. (Ørstavik -Romfolk rammes hardt av tiggeforbud, AFTENPOSTEN (June 11, 2014).) Others argue that the prohibition of begging will lead to an increase in crime, as poor individuals will have to steal necessities such as food. (Rune Jensen, Linn Marie Hammernes, & Hanna Seferowicz, Frykter tiggeforbud vil føre til mer kriminalitet, NRK (June 11, 2014).) A better alternative, according to some, is to only prohibit non-Norwegians from begging on Norwegian streets. (Id.)

Street performances and sales for monetary gain would remain legal under the proposed national legislation. Street musicians will not be treated as beggars and will continue to be allowed to perform even after the criminalization of begging. (Id.)

Municipal Actions

Thus far, no municipality has publicly declared that it will make begging illegal. (Tvilsomt om noen byer vil forby tigging i sommer, NRK (June 11, 2014).) It is therefore unlikely that any begging bans in municipalities will take effect until the fall, as most municipal boards will not convene again until September. (Id.)

Some municipalities have already taken measures to control begging, such as requiring that beggars register with the municipality or prohibiting begging in certain areas like bus stops. (Id.) Prolonged camping in parks and similar areas has also been prohibited, to stem the influx of European migrants who may become beggars. (BjørnGrimen, Eirin Larsen, & Marianne Terjesen, Politidirektoratet har forberedt sig – men innforing av tiggerforbud tar tid, NRK (June 11, 2014).) The municipality of Arendal is expected to make a decision on begging soon; according to the chairman of the municipal board it is expected that a prohibition will be agreed upon. (Svein Sundsdal, Likevel tiggeforbud i Arendal, NRK (June 11, 2014).)

To aid municipalities that wish to prohibit begging, the Norwegian national police department has issued guidelines that can be used to word the prohibition and speed up the process. (Politiet formulerer tiggeforbud for kommunene, DAGBLADET (June 12, 2014); Regulering av tigging [Guidelines on Regulating Begging], Politiet [the Norwegian Police] website (June 12, 2014).)


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