Saturday, July 26, 2008
An awkward power struggle has broken out among foreign and local beggars in Oslo
The conflict is over who should be allowed to peddle the magazine, which sells for NOK 50. Its sellers can keep half of the proceeds. The magazine, called "=Oslo" (equal Oslo), was started up to help provide an income source to those who otherwise would beg for spare change on the streets of the capital. Many of its original sellers were Norwegian drug addicts. Now, however, new groups of foreign beggars want to sell the magazine as well, reported newspaper Dagsavisen earlier this week. The magazine won't let them, saying the sellers should be Norwegian and must be able to speak Norwegian. That's led to protests, and state authorities are investigating whether "=Oslo" is violating anti-discrimination laws. "If we find that ‘=Oslo’ has broken the law, they'll have to find a new solution for the foreigners," said Ingeborg Grimsmo, Norway's acting discrimination ombud. Thorny issues also have broken out within an Oslo organization that serves the poor and offers them free food (Fattighuset). It has refused to give food to the foreign beggars, claiming that the foreigners try to sell the food on the street. "We can't have that," said Johanna Engen, a board member at Fattighuset, arguing that it defies the purpose of the aid and can threaten donations. The anti-discrimination authority is investigating whether Fattighuset can legally only give food to poor Norwegians and not poor foreigners. "There are important principles at stake," Grimsmo said, arguing that the foreigners are becoming "more and more" stigmatized in Norway.