Is Punishment a Way Out of Poverty?

Sidste nyt

Beggars should be punished harder than they are today – if it was up to the Government. Unreasonably harder – in our opinion!

The asylum package recently put forward by the Government,  suggests ‘tightening up the conditions of asylum and access to Denmark in order to keep asylum seekers from entering Denmark’. Along with all the other proposals, one especially tightens the punishment for begging.

Projekt UDENFOR has seen and encountered beggars in the streets for many years. Previously beggars were cruising around, asking for some small change; then beggars turned up, sitting in the streets with a sign. Only few people considered it an offence that people begged and they were seldom an nuisance to the peace and quiet in the streets. This has changed these past few years. Now, there are considerably more beggars and a large part of these are foreigners. It is still, however, difficult seeing beggars as people committing crimes.

According to today’s law, the police must primarily issue a warning to the beggar and subsequently punish. Legal practice is seven days unconditional imprisonment. In the holy name of the asylum policy, this is to be changed to leave out the warning and have punishment starting at 14 days unconditional imprisonment.

I do not know how many asylum seekers are beggars. We do not see many. On the contrary, many foreign beggars come from European countries and do not seek asylum here. And then there are the Danish beggars.

These tightenings should apply for all beggars, should they not? You might suspect that the tightenings only have a signalling effect, as the Government puts it. Or has it also an aesthetic dimension so that you do not see the need of others? A frequently used argument is that begging makes people feel insecure but is it not the need of the other person or the humiliation of the outstretched hand that we do not care about? The same insecurity is not present when Save the Children or the Danish Cancer Society ring our doorbell to collect money, and generally the sellers of ‘Hus Forbi’ are widely accepted. So, if you want to send a signal by further criminalising begging, it is a signal to a certain kind of street beggars that you find disagreable and do not like to confront on your way through the city.

It is expensive, it is ineffective and it is inhuman leaving begging up to the police and the courts to deal with. It is a social issue and not a criminal issue.

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