Swedish town implements $26 ‘begging permit’

A man begs on a busy commercial street, on March 11, 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Getty)

A town in Sweden has implemented a $26 (SEK 250) begging permit for panhandlers who wish to operate in designated sections of town.

Eskilstuna on Aug. 1 started enforcing its rule that beggars must carry a three-month permit, or else face a fine of up to SEK 4,000, the equivalent of $419, according to The Guardian.

Those who wish to beg can apply for the permit online or at a local police station, and they are required to show identification in order to obtain the permit.

“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,” Social Democrat local councilor Jimmy Jansson told the Aftonbladet newspaper, per The Guardian.

“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,” he added.

The city council approved the permit in June 2018, but the local county administrative board overturned the measure the following month. It was not until recently that a high court reversed the board's decision, allowing the permit to be implemented.

Several people have applied for the permit – but there are those who have already thought of a clever way to avoid paying the fee, which includes selling blueberries, according to the Aftonbladet. Jansson told the paper this was “a reasonable reaction to a change in the conditions,” and that it was “not unexpected.”

The local chief of police said the town is examining the situation to determine how to deal with the permit work-around.

“You have to look at the whole, make an assessment of whether this is a way of getting [a]round the new provision,” Thomas Bergqvist told Aftonbladet.

Eskilstuna, which has a population of approximately 70,000 and is located about 80 miles west of Stockholm, is the first town in Sweden to require a permit, although other towns in the country have already banned begging.

In Denmark, for instance, it is illegal to beg.

In the United States, courts have ruled in the past that begging is protected by the First Amendment. Although some cities had passed measures to prohibit or restrict panhandling, they are often met with opposition and have been overturned.

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Author: Melissa Leon

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