By Serife Cetin
BRUSSELS (AA) - In Brussels, the capital of Belgium and center of the EU, the rising number of beggars continues to be a social problem.
Begging is not a crime in Belgium as the law introduced in 1993 says. Everyone in the country has a right to beg.
That is why, although municipalities have the authority to impose restrictions on beggars, begging cannot be prohibited throughout the country.
It is not rare to see beggars in the streets of Brussels, which is home to the EU, NATO, and many other institutions.
The beggars, at high streets, near official buildings, subway, and gardens, put small plastic containers in front of them, as well as small papers containing messages such as "I am hungry" and "please help".
- ‘Give me money, I will go back to Romania’
One of the beggars, an Anadolu Agency correspondent tried to speak on the streets of Brussels, said she came from Romania with a few words of French she knows.
Showing the photographs of her five children, the woman said her husband also begs on the streets and the children are at home, hungry.
A young couple on the street, with their luggage and bags, also said they came from Romania. They have been staying in Belgium for the last two months, said the couple, adding their children were at home in Romania.
Four women from Bosnia and Herzegovina, with babies in their arms, asked for medication and food for their babies.
They said they had arrived in Brussels through Romania to make money due to the difficult economic conditions in their country.
Although they entered a pharmacy with the Anadolu Agency correspondent, the officials tried to remove them. After they were provided with medication and food for their babies, they also asked for money.
On Rue Neuve, the busiest high street in Brussels, a woman said her children in Romania will have surgery. “Give me money, I will go back to Romania,” she begged.
- Criminal organizations or personal preferences?
It is unknown whether beggars in Belgium and especially the Roman community came to the country with their own preferences or brought by criminal organizations.
The Belgian authorities acknowledge that there is a shortcoming. Police records indicate that beggars act in an "organized" way, but it is not yet clear whether they are brought to the country by human trafficking organizations.
- Problem seems to last
Although begging is not considered a crime, municipalities take their own measures to tackle the problem.
For example, abusing children and forcing them to beg are considered crimes and those who commit these crimes can be punished up to five years in prison.
But there is no concrete legal preparation to solve the problem in the country.
Especially after the immigration crisis broke out in 2015, the EU closed its doors tightly to refugees. However, it seems that the EU will not be able to solve the begging problem of the people coming from the lower-income countries of Eastern Europe.
The problem, which started with the EU membership of the Eastern European countries, seems to continue in the near future.
* Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak