According to the new rules, a person can be prosecuted for begging without prior warning and one of the conditions for sentencing is that the begging creates ‘inconvenience’ for members of the public.
Newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad reports that 52 foreign nationals, including 32 Romanians and at least five Bulgarians, have been convicted under the law, but no Danes.
“The Minister of Justice [Søren Pape Poulsen, ed.] has on several occasions made it clear that discrimination must not occur in relation to the begging law,” Maja Løvbjerg Hansen of charity Gadejuristen, which provides legal help to underprivileged individuals, told Kristeligt Dagblad.
“But given that expert assessments find that half of begging is by Danes, these new numbers suggest discrimination is occurring in the work of the police,” Hansen continued.
Copenhagen Police deputy chief superintendent Jakob Søndergaard denied that any discrimination had taken place and said that charges against Danes for breaking the begging law were also forthcoming.
Martin Henriksen, spokesperson for immigration issues with the populist Danish People’s Party, told Kristeligt Dagblad he was pleased to see the apparent skew in the figures and that the aim of the law was to target foreign nationals.
“We wanted to target foreign beggars from the start and would have liked to see the law specifically mention foreigners. It is a good thing that the law is working as intended,” Henriksen said.
“For many years, the number of foreign homeless and beggars in Copenhagen and other large towns has been overwhelming. We have not solved the problem 100 percent, but have come a long way,” he added.
Danish law and international conventions prevent discrimination based on race.
Opposition parties Alternative and the Red-Green Alliance both stated their concern that only foreign citizens have been convicted under the law, according to the figures.
“I hope discrimination is not taking place, but I fear it is,” Rosa Lund of the Red-Green Alliance told Kristeligt Dagblad.