Eskilstuna, a town in Sweden has recently announced an official begging permit that would be required by anybody who asks for money on the streets. The licence will only be valid for three months at a time, and it costs 250 Swedish Krona (US$26) to purchase it upfront. The licence can be acquired by filling out an online form or by applying at a police station. It requires a legitimate ID, and anybody caught begging without the permit could receive a fine of 4,000 Swedish Krona (US$416).
The program was established on the 1st of August after several months of legal set-backs. Social Democrat local councillor, Jimmy Jansson, says that this idea will make it more challenging for people to beg for money, and it will drive more homeless and other vulnerable individuals into the hands of the local authorities, especially social services.
Positive or negative effects?
Critics of the new permit say that it validates begging, and the people who have few options other than asking for money – majority of whom are from Romania and Bulgaria – will now be more vulnerable than before.
Tomas Lindroos from the Stadsmission charity, feels that this plan increases the chance of exploitation, as criminals might pay for an individual’s permit application but then insist on extortionate reimbursement.
On the other hand, Jansson says that the council is making the right move. “This is not about harassing vulnerable people but trying to address the bigger question: whether we think begging should be normalized within the Swedish welfare model,” said Jansson. “I hear a lot of criticism of any attempts to regulate begging, but I don’t see the same strength and energy directed at the fact that people are forced to beg in the first place.”
Lately, a number of towns in Sweden have prohibited the act entirely after the supreme administrative court established a ban on begging in Vellinge, a town in the county of Skåne.