Norway proposes to criminalise beggars and those trying to help them

Norway’s justice minister said the law was needed to outlaw those running begging networks as an 'organised business'

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The Independent Online

Norway has proposed a controversial law which would make it illegal to help beggars on the streets.

Those offering money, food or shelter to beggars could face between six months to a year in prison if the rules came into practise, and it would criminalise organised begging.

City authorities in Oslo are reportedly in uproar over the proposal, but Norway’s justice minister Anders Anundsen said the law was needed to outlaw those running begging networks as an "organised business".

"We need to give the police the legal authority to crack down on people who arrange for beggars to get here, often in large groups," he said.

Norway's parliament has been debating a ban on begging in Oslo since last year, due to the reported amount of beggars on the streets.

Individual council's have been able to ban begging since last year, but now the government is seeking a nationwide ban.

Inger Husby, from the Oslo suburb of Bøler, frequently invites homeless people into her house. She told public broadcaster NRK that she feared that her acts of goodwill could also be deemed illegal if the bill was passed.

"They have stayed here several times," she said. "I give a packed lunch to those here in Bøler, and I fill their cups with cocoa. I wash their clothes when they need it and they come over for dinner once in a while."

Karin Andersen, an MP for the Socialist Left Party, tweeted her anger at the proposal and accused the government of criminalising poverty.

"Europe’s richest country criminalises Europe’s poorest people," she said.

The government has sent the bill out for consultation with a deadline of 15 February.