City takes problems with beggars seriously, says mayor
(CS) Luxembourg City mayor Lydie Polfer has said in a statement that she is taking issues linked to beggars in the capital's streets seriously, following a complaint that authorities were not doing enough.
Luxembourg lawyer Gaston Vogel earlier this month had published an open letter addressed to the mayor, saying that beggars in the capital were a growing problem that needed taking care of.
While the content of the letter found much support among the wider public, the tone in which it was addressed could land Vogel in hot water. The prosecutor's office has launched an investigation for violation of freedom of speech, saying that it is looking into whether the rights and reputation of other needs were harmed by the letter.
Polfer previously replied to Vogel's letter saying that a differentiation should to be made between individuals who are in need and beggars who operate as part of organised gangs. She also cited ongoing talks between City authorities and police to tackle the problem.
Especially shopkeepers have since come forward voicing their grievances. In some areas, beggars gather outside shops. Pictures have emerged of homeless people urinating and defecating in public, as well as unruly, drunk behaviour, which shopkeepers say frightens passersby.
Begging itself is not illegal. In a statement published Thursday, Polfer argued that police had a number of options to pursue the beggars. For example, police can respond to calls of littering, public urination and disturbance of the peace. However, she added that it is often difficult to catch culprits in the act and provide evidence for these offences.
Polfer herself said that she had called police on a number of occasions to intervene.
Organised begging is punishable with between eight days and one month in prison. A suggestion has been made, however, to also make any harassment of passersby and lingering outside of public and private buildings punishable. This is still under discussion.
Human trafficking in the framework of organised begging rings is punishable by between three to five years in prison and fines of between 10,000 and 50,000 euros.
“I am the first to denounce these situations, which we see too open in our city and this is what brought me to speak out on innumerable occasions at the Grand Ducal police and the Justice Ministry,” Polfer concluded, adding that she hopes to have shown “that we take the problem of organised begging, as well as the unacceptable behaviour by some individuals to heart.”