Swedish town becomes first in country to introduce licence fees for beggars

Eskilstuna, a town to the west of Stockholm, has become the first in the country to introduce a licence fee for beggars, meaning anyone who wants to ask people for money on the street will have to pay for a permit.

Swedish town becomes first in country to introduce licence fees for beggars
Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

The permit for so-called passive collection of money costs 250 kronor and requires a valid ID. Local politicians have said the goal is to make begging more difficult, as well as to make it easier for authorities and services to get in contact with vulnerable people and offer them help.

“We are bureaucratizing and making it more difficult, and we can see how that goes,” said municipal councillor Jimmy Jansson, a Social Democrat. “I hope that the police will be able to implement it so that a new permit is needed for each day.”

According to local newspaper Eskilstuna-Kuriren, beggars in the central parts of the town have begun to sell berries instead.

“That isn't unexpected at all,” said Jansson. “It is of course a reasonable reaction to a change in the rules, but if you sit and sell things outside a shop, the shop owners will soon get cross.”

Since December last year, several Swedish towns have banned begging in certain areas after a ruling from the Supreme Administrative Court set a precedent by upholding a ban put in place in Vellinge, a town in Skåne.

There has been some criticism of the laws, which Jansson described as “hypocritical”.

“To be frank, imagine if the engagement in the question of how awful it is that people have to beg, was as great as the engagement against the regulation,” he said.

“[The question] has its roots in the fact that people are in an extremely vulnerable and difficult situation. You have a state that oppresses you, doesn't take responsibility for you and basically persecutes you sometimes, you live in extreme poverty. You have to differentiate between begging and people in need, and find other ways to help them.”

Eskilstuna's municipal council first made the decision to introduce a permit requirement in May 2018, but the county administrative board overturned it. The case was then taken to the administrative court, which cancelled the county administrative board's ruling, meaning that the rules came into force on August 1st, 2019.

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