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Council of Europe calls on Norway to scrap local begging bans

Beggars line up in the allays to seek help/FILE

Beggars line up in the allays to seek help/FILE

NORWAY, May 19 – The Council of Europe said Monday that Norway should scrap a law allowing local councils to ban begging, describing it as “discriminatory” against Roma immigrants.

The pan-European body’s Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks welcomed Norway’s decision to drop plans for a nationwide begging ban earlier this year, but said he remained “concerned about bans at municipal level on begging and sleeping rough”.

“A blanket ban on non-aggressive begging has a discriminatory impact on Roma immigrants and interferes with freedom of expression. Such bans should be repealed,” he said in a statement at the launch of a new human rights report on the Nordic country.

He added that oil-rich Norway — one of the world’s richest nations — should do more to provide “emergency accommodation to those in need, including immigrants”.

The report was based on a visit Muiznieks made to Norway in January and also dealt with the rights of people with disabilities.

Although it acknowledged that Norway respects international conventions on disabled rights, it “still fails to fully promote the self-determination, legal capacity and effective equality of people with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities,” the Strasbourg-based body said.

The report also criticised the “extremely frequent use of child protection measures to separate (Roma) children from their families”.

In its response the Norwegian government pointed to an uptick in begging by foreign nationals in public places since 2007 and defended the right to use local begging bans.

The country’s right-wing government was forced to drop a proposal for a nationwide ban in February due to lack of parliamentary support.

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The law would have allowed for the prosecution of anyone found guilty of “complicity” with beggars, including giving them transport, shelter or supplies.

Last year Norway introduced the possibility of banning begging locally but so far just one small southern town, Arendal, has done so.

Begging is also banned in Denmark and parts of Britain.

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