Despite Sweden’s pride in its robust universal welfare system, which was severely shook since the migrant crisis struck Europe especially at its height in 2015, an upscale town in Stockholm has become the progressive capital’s first to impose a blanket ban on homeless begging after a crucial vote.
It just barely passed in elite Lidingö, a posh community whose residents include ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and other international celebrities, after locals began fearing for their security, perhaps also driven by fears of what has happened in the southern coastal city of Malmo, reputed as among the highest crime locations in the world.
Needless to say it’s set off a fierce debate and divided the community, with many saying it flies in the face of the Nordic country’s compassionate socialism and reputation for taking care of the most vulnerable.
The town’s municipal council took up the divisive issue on Monday, and it passed by a mere one vote after fierce public debate: 26 in favor and 25 votes against introducing a local begging ban.
Likely a permit, which ironically will cost a fee, will be required to publicly ask for money as has been implemented in select other towns in Sweden.
One council member leading those who opposed the ban said, “I have so far not found any Lidingö residents who say they are insecure. A local ban does not solve the problem, it just moves it to other municipalities. One must give attention to the causes and not the symptoms.”
Those in favor tended to present the new law as necessary to divert beggars and panhandlers to the proper state and community services that are suited to provide help.
While Lidingö is now among a handful of municipalities to have introduced the ban, which now requires police authorization to ask for money in public for any reason; it is the first in the Stockholm region, and certainly the wealthiest and most elite.
Other towns are considering implementing the ban, in what could be a domino effect following growing anger and resentment over migrants and asylum seekers which have continued to pour into the socialist country, with many citizens criticizing that it’s too easy to get on Swedish welfare.