World Bulletin / News Desk
The Norwegian parliament on Monday began debating controversial anti-begging legislation that critics say targets the country's Roma minority.
The proposal by the minority right-wing government, which is expected to pass and become law on Friday, would allow local authorities to ban begging from the start of summer.
The two-party governing coalition and a centrist opposition group agreed that the ban would take effect at the start of 2015.
Those found guilty of begging in municipalities where the ban is enforced would face fines and up to three months in prison.
Norway's Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, of the ruling anti-immigration Progress Party, said there was "a link" between begging and crime, notably pickpocketing.
Roma immigrants from Romania are expected to be the most affected by the new law. Out of 194 beggars identified in year 2012, only seven were Norwegian nationals where the others were Romanian citizens.
Opponents of the law have likened it to anti-Jewish legislation that has since been repealed.
"How can you believe that in 200 years' time this will not be seen as an attempt to stop Roma entering the kingdom?" asked Bård Vegar Solhjell of the Socialist Left Party, referring to an article of the Norwegian constitution that barred Jews from entering the country 200 years ago. Other opponents said the law would not succeed in lowering crime rates.
"If they can no longer (beg), they will be obliged to turn even more to crime," Arild Knutsen, head of a national drug addicts association, told Norwegian television.
The Norwegian King is expected to officially approve the ban on Friday after a first vote takes place on late Monday and the second reading takes place, which is going to be held on Thursday.Last Mod: 17 Haziran 2014, 16:24