This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.In Finland, street begging and human trafficking have practically become synonymous. A massive trafficking circuit moves Romanians, particularly children, into Helsinki and forces them to beg on the streets. To help combat this, Finland is considering a ban on begging. But human trafficking victims aren't the only ones asking for help on the street, and some people are concerned a ban will do little to solve the problem. Human trafficking for forced begging is not an uncommon event, especially for children. The Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire featured a forced-begging ring, where the Hollywood-ized evil traffickers blinded children to play on sympathetic tourists' wallets. But forced begging is also a problem in many European Union countries, where traffickers smuggled children from Eastern European countries to the wealthier west and force them to ask for money on the streets. In Helsinki, there is a particular problem with trafficked children from Romania and Bulgaria being forced to beg. So in order to help the children, a bill has been proposed which would make panhandling illegal.
The goal of the ban, proponents claim, would not be to punish individuals down on their luck or homeless who are asking for money of their own fruition, but rather to give law enforcement tools to find and break up child trafficking rings and bring the perpetrators to justice. Currently, it's difficult for police to intervene on behalf of a child begging when they suspect human trafficking. And that makes Helsinki a haven for traffickers.
But the ban would be a blanket ban, and it would affect more than just kids in need of help. For example, many beggars on the streets of Helsinki are Roma people who have applied for asylum and are awaiting a hearing. And despite the robust Finnish social welfare state, homelessness among Finns is not unheard of. How would the ban affect those people? Would it help channel them to resources and protection? Or result in the jails becoming the largest national homeless shelter?
Forced begging is a very real form of human trafficking which needs to be addressed. But throwing the homeless and asylum seekers in jail won't really help trafficked kids. I hope the Finns find a way to oust the traffickers without punishing every person who asks for a little extra change.