Beggars in Stockholm

Beggars in Stockholm
A beggar in Stockholm

Beggars in Stockholm—everywhere!

Just a few years ago, one never saw beggars in Stockholm. Today, one never sees Swedish beggars, but beggars from Romania seem to be on every corner, at the door of every shop, and at every subway station entrance. It’s an orchestrated invasion; just like the organized Gypsy begging that has been investigated and documented in the U.K. However, in Stockholm, I haven’t (yet?) seen child beggars. Not even babes in arms. I suspect the kingpins are smart enough to realize that Sweden wouldn’t stand for that.

The Swedish government periodically debates the possibility of banning begging, but then, what would happen to the few homeless and drug-addicted Swedes who beg, and the few alcoholics out on the street? Where would they get cash?

Well then, let’s ban begging by foreigners! Good idea, but unlikely to happen any time soon, I think. Everything in Sweden happens by committee, and happens slooooowly.

Beggars in Stockholm
Tools of the trade: “family” photos and a paper cup.
Beggars in Stockholm
A Swedish citizen donates to a Romanian beggar in Stockholm
Beggars in Stockholm
This couple just gave 100 crowns, about US$15, to a beggar-woman.
Beggars in Stockholm
A beggar in the Stockholm subway.

When border control within the European Union went soft, it didn’t take syndicate leaders long to take advantage of the new freedom of movement. Transnational criminal activities increased, particularly human trafficking.

For now, EU citizens are allowed to come to Sweden and stay without permission for up to three months. The Gypsy bosses know the rules. They transport the poor Romanian villagers, house them, feed them, and ferry them to their assigned begging spots. They come along and empty the cash-cups periodically.

Like the employees of a global theme park, all the Romanian beggars in Stockholm seem to be clones, all carbon copies of a model with a signature style. They all sit, they’re all wrapped in a blanket, they all hold a paper cup, and they all show photos of children. They all have a number of plastic bags near them, stuffed with things. They all block the flow of traffic.

Sweden is perfect…

Sweden is an excellent venue for this racket. Its citizens are wealthy, compassionate, and to some extent naive. The government is hamstrung and afraid to act. Tourists are rarely the budget type. I see people contributing to the cups (to the bosses’ riches); I’ve never seen meanness or complaint toward the beggars, not even hey-you’re-blocking-the-way.

The issue, the poor-Romanian-beggar, abused-victim-or-system-abuser conundrum, fraught with racial implications, is a bush to be beat around. In Sweden, there’s a ubiquitous fear of “what others think.” Everyone’s afraid to appear incorrect.

We spoke to a couple just after we saw them hand over a hundred crowns (about US$15) with a kind word and pat on the beggar’s arm. They give often, they said, whenever they can. They know these people are poor and need the money to feed their children. The couple buys into the scam hook, line, and sinker. Oh, I believe the beggars are poor and, since they don’t work, need help to support their families. But even the Romanian ambassador to Sweden thinks begging should be outlawed (and acknowledges that the beggars are her countrymen).

The beggars’ bosses* keep track of time. When three months are up, the gang is packed up and moved on for another stint elsewhere. Meanwhile, those at the top of the organized hierarachy build palatial houses back in their dumpy Romanian villages, and poor Romanian parents who “rented out” their children to begging and pickpocketing rings likewise see relative wealth.

Beggars in Stockholm
Magician Charlie Caper performed well in spite of the beggar who hobbled onto the stage and disrupted his show.
Beggars in Stockholm
After the beggar-woman gains attention on stage, she heads out into the audience with her cup.
Beggars in Stockholm
After taking undue applause with the magician, the beggar proffers her cup and photo.
Beggars in Stockholm
The beggar smiled, pointed, gestured, and took the magician’s applause.
Beggars in Stockholm
The beggars are mostly women and usually have a number of stuffed plastic bags beside them.
Beggars in Stockholm
A beggar in Stockholm
Beggars in Stockholm
A beggar in Stockholm
Beggars in Stockholm
Romania’s Command Central in Stockholm? There’s always a cluster on the stairs at Sergel’s Plattan.

Bob and I strolled through Kungsträdgården, a central park area in Stockholm, while a street performers’ festival was in full swing. Magician Charlie Caper, surrounded by a good crowd, was mid-routine when one of these Gypsy beggars actually waddled on stage and joined him.

Atypical for her type and oddly gregarious, she seemed to thrive on the magician’s reflected attention. The brazen beggar gestured, she pointed, she ta-da’ed. And when the crowd applauded for the magician, she soaked it up all-smiles and headed into the audience with her cup and photo, as if she were collecting for her talented son. The audacity!

Is it good to give?

Let’s say for a moment that the gypsy beggars in Stockholm get to keep all the cash they collect. I know—but just for arguments’ sake. Then subtract what they must pay for transport from Romania and in three months, to some unknown point (by crowded bus?). And subtract what they pay for food, lodging, and local transportation (which is not cheap in Sweden). They must be gathering a pretty penny, to make their long days on the cold pavement (Sweden, winter…) worthwhile. Citizens and tourists fill the beggars’ cups and the Gypsies (often seen talking on their mobile phones) call their friends and relatives back home and urge them to hop on the next bus to Stockholm, the deal’s great.

Or let’s say it’s not like that at all. The beggars are basically slave labor, trafficked humans, forced to sit on the pavement all day, forced to follow company protocol behaving just so. Strict overseers collect the beggars’ takings periodically and they are given a small wage. Most of the money donated by good samaritans goes into the pockets of the ringleader who—it’s well-established by now—builds palatial mansions (relatively speaking) in Romanian villages otherwise full of wood shacks.* The whole enterprise is a social engineering stunt—one huge scam exploiting public empathy and generous social services.

Either way, depositing funds into the cup-accounts of bundled beggars on the street is not a smart way to help. It rewards the begging enterprise, feeds the criminal organization, and ensures the continuation of the practice. Donors are kindhearted patsies.

Of course Stockholm isn’t the only city under siege. In fact, all of Sweden, even small towns in the frigid north, has been invaded by organized Romanian beggars. Denmark made headlines when Trine Bramsen, justice police spokeswoman for its governing Social Democrat party, said “We don’t want to make Denmark a hotel with a reputation across Europe for free food and board.” She wants them to “choose another country, for example Sweden, where they know they have better possibilities.” Looks like that’s working.

Some parts of the Austria, for example Tyrol and Salzburg, tried to ban begging altogether. But the Constitutional Court overturned outright bans, ruling that begging is a human right.

Dublin has been cracking down on organized begging for years now. In Spain, almost 100 people have been arrested for running human trafficking rings in last three years. “Most of the detainees are Romanian nationals, as are their victims, who are brought to Spain by the rings. In nearly all of the cases the victims were promised well-paid jobs in Spain, but once here they were made to beg on the streets in exchange for a sandwich and a bed inside a shelter.”

The European Union is desperate for a solution but the problem is huge—far bigger than organized begging, even though these rings fall within the realm of human trafficking. “The problem of human trafficking in the European Union” is good read, freshly presented by the European Parliamentary Research Service.

A tool to combat trafficking, is knowledge of its causes and vulnerabilities of victims. This Romanian study of trafficking in persons for forced begging provides such a picture. It highlights the vulnerabilities of potential victims, the characteristics of traffickers and outlines recommendations on combating both these aspects. This study will assist in facilitating ongoing campaigns and cooperation to fight against this heinous crime, to fight for the protection, assistance to, and dignity of the victims and most importantly, to prevent trafficking.

Trafficking in Persons for Begging — Romania Study

Well-meant donations to beggars enrich the criminal syndicate leaders and further enslave the individuals forced into begging. Giving to beggars is misplaced kindness. The gift does not remain in the hand that receives it.


*Edited 7/29/14 to add support and sources:

“The leaders of a child-trafficking operation that put hundreds of beggars on the streets of Britain were targeted in a series of raids today in a remote Romanian town where opulent mansions have sprung up since the country joined the European Union. … at least 17 people were arrested after the raids on 33 homes in Tandarei [Romania] by a small army of organised crime investigators, assisted by 26 Metropolitan Police officers and two observers from Interpol. … Firearms, jewellery, luxury cars and large sums of money were found at the homes of suspects, according to local media, which said that 320 Romanian officers were involved in the operation. Tandarei, with its population of 12,000 people, 150km east of Bucharest, has undergone a seemingly miraculous economic boom in the past few years.” Police in Romania arrest leaders of child-trafficking operation in UK, The Times, April 8, 2010

If you don’t have a subscription to The Times and do not want to pay £1, the text is also here. Underline above is mine.

Also see the BBC documentary “Britain’s Child Beggars.”

Edit: See follow-up article after our fact-finding trip to Romania.

Edit: Finally, 10/4/14, Sweden admits out loud that the beggars are organized and pay big bucks to bosses. Beggars are Forced to Pay, in Dagens Nyheter, Swedens biggest daily paper. Here’s a Google-translation of the page.

Edit: It is mid-December, mostly dark and freezing out, and I see just as many beggars as in the summer. Perhaps more are in the subways and inside the entries of grocery stores than out in the streets, but they’re in full force. Well-bundled, at least.

Edit: See Stockholm beggars incite political daring about the controversial anti-begging ad prominently placed in a Stockholm subway station.

Edit: Over six days walking all over London in August 2015, I saw exactly two beggars. Police tell me they are removed from the streets immediately and given food and shelter.

Edit: Sweden’s making progress! Now the official word is: “Stop giving money to beggars.” Here’s a Google translation of the article.

All text © copyright 2000-present. All rights reserved. Bambi Vincent

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44 Comments

  • Bill is probably in LA; to the best of my knowledge, it’s the only major city in the state that has a “Metro.”

  • I live in California. We have seen an influw of Roma here as well. Their children are there with them outside of metro stops, grocery stores, and retail areas.
    Some of the family members sometimes play accordions.

  • “just buy them food…”

    By the looks of most of them, most are obese, they would benefit from going a few days without people handing them food.

  • Thanks for your current observations, AJ. Always good to get an up-to-date report. The Swedes have had their heads in the sand about this issue, but I think they’re beginning to wake up to the scam and human trafficking issues involved. Tightening borders, as they have done in a small way, is a beginning.

  • Great comprehensive article! I was in Stockholm last month and was wondering what’s up with all the gypsies on the streets. I definitely didn’t remember seeing them the last time I was in Sweden back in 2008.

    I love to people watch on my travels and I spent several hours in a cozy chair next to the window at Espresso House, drinking chai, writing my blog, editing my photos and secretly watching one of the many gypsy women who parked herself to the right of the entrance of the coffeehouse. All customers had to pass by or step around her to enter the store. Every 45 minutes or so, she would leave her belongings outside and enter the coffeehouse to use their bathroom. Then she would move to her stuff to the left of the entrance. This went on for hours! She situated herself specifically to be in the way.

    Further down the street (Riksbron), there were two gypsy women right smack in the pedestrian road facing each other a couple feet apart. You have no option but to get flanked by both of them- of course, they purposely do that to get in your face and perhaps pull some heart strings and wheel in some donations.

    It was infuriating whenever I saw someone drop money in her coffee cup. I just wanted to bang my head against the wall. They should know better than enable this type of behavior. If they really feel bad, donate that money to a legit organization instead. Is the government doing ANYTHING to combat this issue?!

  • Thanks for that link, Jimbo. To put that into perspective, read my update,
    Stockholm beggars incite political daring, about the controversial anti-begging ad prominently placed in a Stockholm subway station. Now, as Jimbo references, protestors have destroyed the bold ad, calling it racist. To me, this is a stretch, as the ad and the Sweden Democrat party that placed it complain of begging in the street—an act, not a people. It is the begging that is objectionable—not the Eastern Europeans, the Romanians, or the Roma.

  • Great article Bambi!

    I am a New Zealander now living in Sweden and was shocked at the amount of beggars here.

    I cannot believe how the Swedish government or people allow these unsavory people to make the Country look like a post apocalyptic nuclear wasteland.

    It’s definitely a special country when it comes to it’s bleeding heart attitude for non-residents who have it oh so bad. But yet, the Swedish people seem to get the raw end of the deal having to pay exuberant taxes to finance their criminal begging groups.

    Makes me sick!

  • Greetings Bambi Vincent and to whom this may concern,

    After having spent a little over a year in Sweden I’ve unfortunately become accustomed to people from many different underdeveloped european countries scouring the streets and loitering about store fronts begging for money. I recently learned that a large concentration of them immigrate from Romania and Bulgaria. While there is much information concerning the matter I think that the situation is being handled lackadaisically and with little coordination between the evolved european and Scandinavian countries. This Article and many others have definitely shed some light on the subject, but I feel its necessary to take a more personal approach to perhaps provoke a movement thats based on the why so to speak. Now the why is obvious to anyone that takes the time to inform him or herself on the poverty stricken basis in which these Roma people choose to flee there countries. But the problem is that there is a large percentage of people who see these street dwellers as a nuisance and a small percentage who fell empathic enough to find out the why. There are only a small percentage of people who will go the extra mile to remedy this problem and thats what needs to change.

    As an artist that has recently relocated from Los Angeles and is now operating out of Stockholm I plan to full dedicate my upcoming series with the intent of spreading awareness of the why to promote a much needed movement. I am however still particularly uneducated on the matter and welcome the sharing of any knowledge from anyone who’d like to contribute.

    In the last week I’ve been working with a Romanian beggar with the attempt to gather a personal story that just may render the hearts and minds of many. With my upcoming series I’ll be attempting to convey the why, both through text and a series of paintings.

    I am however in need of a Romanian translator and any pertinent information on the subject.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my comment.

    Dearest regards
    Quanti.

    Qbomani@gmail.com

  • Thanks for your compliments, Julie! Giving the beggars food and water only seems like a good strategy. I wonder if you or someone you know can speak with these people in Bulgarian?

  • A great blog, made very interesting reading..We have many in our small town of Hallstahammar, again mostly females, and from Bulgaria… organised by a man who gets them to pay (via loaning them) 1000 kr in which they have to pay back.. I do not give them money, I give them water and food.. which then the beggar gets something that the criminal organiser does not…

  • Always interesting to hear from a local, Stockholmer. You seem angry about the status quo. Why is it most Swedes are complacent? Attributable to the “logom” mentality? Meanwhile, the beggars have taken over!

  • Perhaps I can fill in some background information. There were no beggars in Stockholm during the 80’s. If they were spotted by the police, they were instantly shipped to a mental hospital.

    It was not until the deinstutionalization of the mentally ill in 1994 that we started to see homeless beggars in Sweden. These were the mentally ill who insisted that they were not mentally ill and therefore refused treatment or assistance. They were left to rot and die, most were dead after 10 years because of harsh conditions and mental illness.

    These gypsies are relatively new, the first ones came perhaps 7-8 years ago and they were then relatively rare, but their numbers grew exponentially and now we have a bumper crop of gypsies every summer. The gypsies do not pay for lodging, they use facilities intended for swedish homeless who simply get chased away with the shelter staff looking on.

    You see, there is good money to be made on gypsies by the native professional caretaker industry.
    NGOs like the red cross, save the children, the city mission, various churches et cetera recieve payouts from public funds to spend on the homeless. Most of these funds are of course spent on various “expenses” including enormous wages and fringe benefits for the top executives, the bigger the organization the bigger the income. In other words, these organizations are legal scams. Unlike swedish homeless, who are a limited resource, gypsies are practically limitless and can easily be harnessed to grow the caretaker industry into the stratosphere and make the executives wealthy.

  • Oh, thank you Skandinav! Those are incredible scenes. Hard to believe that Sweden allows this situation to continue. It’s so against the Swedish style—and probably against a few laws or ordinances. And the pavements where these people beg look filthy, very un-Swedish. Thanks for the links.

  • Connie, your story illustrates why most of us go from naive to wise. Good example of the phrase “live and learn,” right? I, too, see many of the gypsy beggars with fast food and iPhones. Swedes are still naive, but they’re starting to get the picture, based on the many comments here and on other blogs. Thanks for your comment!

  • I grew up mostly in Romania, the situation was bad enough there, as soon as I could I left due to unfair wages and discrimination.
    I ended up in Sweden again some 4 years ago.
    At some point, due to circumstances, I was forced to live on the streets of Stockholm some 7 years ago. Never begged for a krona in my life and never will. When the influx of beggars began I felt a sort of kinship to them, due to knowing how it felt not to have a home and being forced to search the garbage cans for scraps of food, and wanted to help.
    Then I was working in a kitchen and was allowed to take home leftovers. I packed some 30 portions of good fresh food with napkins and plastic cutlery and planned on sharing it with those “in need”. I made my way to the first one and started to speak to him in Romanian. He told me some sob story about 4 kids and how he wanted to get back home to them, and that he needed 2000kr for that and he only had 200kr. He then asked if I had work for him. I explained that my situation wasn’t much better but if he would like I have some fresh food from the kitchen I work in. I told him about the Red Cross, that they may be able to help him. Gave him 2 large servings of food and went home to draw the guy a map so he may get to the Red Cross.
    I returned after about 1 hour and my good man was not at his spot but his things were still there. I had the map in hand, looked around and waited for a couple of minutes. I threw something in the garbage and I noticed the food I’ve given the man at the top of the pile. I start to walk away disappointed. Shortly after I see my guy with a cigarette in his mouth talking on his iPhone with a bag of McDonald’s food in the other hand. He didn’t recognise me. I kept walking but then and there I swore to myself that I would never help a gypsy beggar again.

  • I agree with scandinavian. Am swedish myself and the situation is snowballing out of control fast yet goverment and police does nothing. By law, they can stay 3 months IF they show they themself can sustain their living withouth begging. Yet we see them building villages out of garbage and the landowner, not only can’t make them leave, they have to PAY to clean up the crap and is responsible for the camp. After one camp was cleard, over 100 tons!!! of garbage had to be shipped from the site. Swedish people are usually very strict about following rules, so when a people come here and basicaly takes a dump on our system, I can’t for anything understand how athority can just not only stand and let this happen but also taking the peoples money (taxes) to “help” this event go on. The begging outside shops is just the tip of the iceberg (crapberg) and I have a gut feeling this is the one that will sink the Titanic.

  • That is a VERY interesting article, Scandinavian. Thanks for sharing that link. So interesting to watch the development of this situation. Feel free to update us here.

  • The same to you Vincent. Enjoyed your vids. Yes, something have to give and I don’t think it’s going be the gypsies. I hate gypsies!

    In my teens I was encircled by a gang of gypsies and the cheifs son said he had a knife to my throat and was going to cut it.

    The other SOB laughed their butts off. I could tell you more “cultural enriching encounters” with gypsies. I have always gone out of my way to stay off gypsies. Now I can’t go a hundred meters from my home and there are at least one.

    I bookmarked you and will be back :-)

  • Thanks for that extra info and link, Scandinavian. I agree that the situation is out of control and these beggars are taking advantage of Sweden’s inertia. Yes, the pavements are now filthy—a totally new phenomenon for Sweden. Something has to give. Perhaps the explosion of comments will finally be noticed. Appreciate your input!

  • Hello Vincent. This gypsy crap is going mayhem in Sweden. There is a thread at the Flashback forum, in swedish, about the gypsy plague. Last month, Feb 2015 it turned 10.000 comments.

    I read every comments after August 2014. And one thing is very clear, it gets worse by the hour and people are totally fed up that they can’t do their daily shopping without being harassed by gypsy.

    Invandrare som tigger (samlingstråd) /Mod

    https://www.flashback.org/t1781679p958

    This has exploded over the last year’s. You can go to the smallest village anywhere in Sweden, if there is a shop, there is a gypsy begging.

    This winter was warm and the gypsies stayed over. And they arrive by the busload right now. I don’t get why the sweds accept having dump of filth outside every shop.

    If you don’t read swedish, just look for the YouTube and pic links.

    They take a crap in the street in daylight. Many places in central Stockholm stink of excrement. There are many pics and videos of where they camp after “work”. Well, this just started.

  • A girl reported walking last week from Vasastan and down Sveavägen to Sergels torg and encountering 16 beggars along the way. Recently there was a report that ‘indy’ beggars had to pay a commission, but the content of the article you cited is lost on the Swedes. Either it’s ‘kick them out’ (conservatives) or ‘let’s do something’ (liberals) but there is no overall awareness of the big picture – Swedes eschew news beyond their own borders as you know.

    The EEC was once conceived as a way to prevent further bloodshed in Europe. That was a stroke of genus. But things have gone far beyond that today, and not only in terms of corruption in Brussels, but in terms of how EU law supersedes local law and how therefore the entirety of Europe can be manipulated at a single pressure point.

    The situation with beggars is another indication that things are out of control, but it’s hardly something the puppet-masters care about, unfortunately.

    Yours is the best summary and analysis of the situation bar none. Thanks much.

  • Thanks for your comments, Surgiosphynx, Count, and Say.

    Surgiosphynx, I tried to look at your blog, but I don’t see that you’ve posted any articles at all. I would love to read the transcription of your interview. What you mentioned of it is very interesting. I love your final take on the situation:

    “It is appalling this kind of scams exist in the twenty first century, especially in a strong country like Sweden. It’s even worse when people fall for something you know is “a scam” and you cannot stop them because it makes them feel better about themselves. But we all have to educate ourselves and see beyond what our eyes show.

    Well said!

    Count: Please tell me about how you were “treading the dark side of the world for almost two decades.” I’m intrigued…

    Say: You are so right. Isn’t it interesting how many of us agree, yet nothing happens?

    Thank you all for your contributions (to this blog—not to the beggars!)

  • I agree… Good article. I have watched them ..we are invaded in Kalmar.. An invasion so overt it’s strange that no one takes any action to end it. There are a few ringleaders which walk around checking up on them. This is human trafficking. If only people would realize that they worsen ..not improve the situation by giving money. This increases humans trafficking leading to exploration. Nice going nice people.

  • I am new to this website and really enjoy it. I used to give to beggars when I was a kid, but after treading the dark side of the world for almost two decades, I don’t give anymore and feel none of that “obligatory pity and shame” for not doing so.

    INSTEAD, each year, I donate a percentage of my earnings to established legal charities, including a couple that assist people in need. I have seen far far faaaar more “phony” beggars than legitimate ones over the years and have hardened my heart (on the street level).

  • Hey!

    I came across this blog whilst doing some secondary research for my own blog on the very same topic. I must say, this is a very well structured piece.

    Anyhow, I think the one thing missing from this is an actual POV from the beggers themselves. It seems all of your writing is coming from a “They are criminals” perspective. I fully agree with pretty much everything you’ve written on how the majority of them are linked to the criminality organisations

    Having acquaintance with some “Romanian Gypsies” who are born and raised in Stockholm and speak “zigenska” the gypsies own language (which isn’t anything close to romanian) I managed to interview two brothers who are “Turk-Romanian” beggers in Stockholm.

    They were probably the only “genuine” beggers I have met in Stockholm. They admitted how the “organisation” works. How everyday a group of them are assigned to collect pant whereas the others are assigned different spots throughout Stockholm to beg with various methods (playing instruments, the picture card of their family etc) by their “leaders” who are in strong financial situations.

    Having said that, walking through Sveavägen or Vasagatan at 3am after a night out shows the scale of difficulty they go through, even in this harsh winter…

    They have real problems within their organisation too and cannot do anything about it because they are in a host country, don’t know the language and are genuinely hopeless. So they do what they know best, take (not make) money in any way possible.

    It is appalling this kind of scams exist in the twenty first century, especially in a strong country like Sweden. It’s even worse when people fall for something you know is “a scam” and you cannot stop them because it makes them feel better about themselves. But we all have to educate ourselves and see beyond what our eyes show.

    It truly sucks how only a tiny tiny minority of these beggers can speak english at all. People would truly be able to see through them if they were able to communicate with them.

  • Very good article and a necessary one as it seems that people who give really think they are supporting a good cause!!!

  • Thanks for your compliment, Katey! As you mentioned, even in freezing December these people are sitting on the pavement. Forced, in my opinion. It is pitiful to see, especially the elderly women, wrapped in blankets sitting on the ground. However, to give them money is to make the organized endeavor successful, putting money in the pockets of the criminal bosses, and to continue this form of slavery.

  • Great blog. We just spent Christmas in Stockholm and saw many beggars (there were none on our last visit 4 years ago). There seemed to be way too many children/sisters who needed surgery (particularly in a country, like mine, that has a good healthcare system) and the signs they held were all the same. We had to explain to our kids why we weren’t giving any money – although we did give some to a Swedish guy who appeared genuinely homeless – he was sitting sheltered from the wind, for a start.

    I usually buy food for homeless people, but when I saw the occasional person do this in Stockholm, they were obviously not happy that it wasn’t cash.

  • While most of the Romanian beggars are organized, a small number may be independent. If one doubts the relationship between organized and independent begging, just go down to Medborgarplatsen in Stockholm, and look at the men who belong to many of the female beggars “working” in Stockholm. It is not too difficult to start a conversation with these guys, IF you have a translator. You also need a good reason to get friendly with these guys in order to dig for information.

    I have done this, for different purposes. But that’s another story.

    We would like to stress the interpretation of the word “organized.” What is organized begging? Does it mean a boss back in Romania who harvests poor Gypsies and sends them to Sweden? Is it a criminal gang? Are some of the beggars only loosely organized?

    Of course we haven’t counted every beggar (in Stockholm), nor investigated them or how they arrived here or when they return to Romania. Neither have the police, or any other organization. We do know they use a systematic technique, and a pretense. For example they do have “handlers.” They have mobile phones in their pockets, which they use when they think they’re not being observed. They use similar laminated photos of children. But the underlying message they project across Europe, proven by documentary filmmakers and investigative law enforcement agencies in Paris, London and even here in Stockholm, is that there are direct links between these beggars and organized crime syndicates back in Romania.

    It’s a bigger problem than Sweden can resolve. It belongs to the EU in Brussels, where the dialog continues. Our own viewpoint, at present, is that the abundant begging in Sweden is possible mainly because so many Swedes empathize with these conspicuous people who have less than Swedish citizens. Swedes have been shamed into helping. Sweden is an exemplary nation in terms of looking after its less fortunate. But its more gullible citizens are being taken advantage of with trickery.

    There are other ways to help needy families and refugees from war-torn areas through organizations in Sweden. Giving money to beggars simply increases the practice and sends a message to Romania that Sweden is easy picking.

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