Denmark deports woman for begging for the first time

Court sentences woman to 40 days in prison before she is expelled from the country

Lizzie Dearden
Friday 02 December 2016 15:25 GMT
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Begging is punishable by up to six months in prison in Denmark
Begging is punishable by up to six months in prison in Denmark (AFP/Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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A Slovakian woman is to be deported from Denmark for begging for the first time under a controversial law that criminalises the practice.

Judges at the City Court of Copenhagen sentenced the woman to 40 days in prison on Tuesday, after which she will be expelled from the country.

Police said the woman had previously been convicted several times for begging for money from passers-by in the Danish capital.

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“This is the first time a person has been deported from Denmark for begging,” a statement said, adding that the court found the defendant had come to Denmark “with the sole purpose of supporting herself by begging”.

“Even though she is an EU citizen and therefore enjoys enhanced protection against expulsion, the court assessed that there were grounds for deportation,” a spokesperson added.

Article 197 of Denmark’s penal code criminalises begging for anyone who has previously ignored police cautions, with a maximum prison sentence of six months.

Begging must be “active” to be illegal, rather than someone passively accepting donations. EU citizens are frequently warned or fined, while those from outside the continent can be immediately deported.

Danish law also prevents local authorities giving shelter to unregistered immigrants without a national identification number.

Prosecutors said they were “satisfied” with the landmark judgement allowing the Slovakian woman to be deported.

“It might seem harsh to deport a person for begging for money, but the fact is that begging is illegal in Denmark,” said prosecutor Anne Jacobsen.

“When a person repeatedly comes to Denmark solely for making a living through crime, then at some point you have to say no. And that is what the court has done.”

Politicians in neighbouring Sweden have been considering implementing their own anti-begging law amid fears of an influx of people fearing prosecution in Denmark.

The country has seen a sharp rise in numbers of beggars from eastern Europe, which has riled anti-immigration groups, but left wing politicians have hit back.

"You can’t ban poverty,” said Swedish Green Party migration spokesperson Maria Ferm.

"It is not the government’s policy to use criminal law against people who ask others for help."

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