Berne to clear streets of beggars

While residents of Berne may enjoy a very high standard of living, city officials are not resting on their laurels. The authorities have announced that they want to rid the city of beggars.

This content was published on January 13, 2000 - 15:26

While residents of Berne may enjoy a very high standard of living, city officials are not resting on their laurels. The authorities have announced that they want to rid the city of beggars.

Berne is one of the few Swiss towns or cities where begging is not prohibited, however "the phenomenon is increasing and correspondingly, so have complaints from shopkeepers, tourists and political parties", said the mayor of Berne, Klaus Baumgartner.

Baumgartner said police checks show that two-thirds of beggars lining the streets of the old town are foreigners, mostly from eastern Europe, whose tourist visas have expired. He also said organised gangs were in control of much of the scene.

"Women are forced to beg here in Berne and the money they earn is taken away by the crime bosses," added Baumgartner.

Among the new measures to crackdown on begging, police will increase patrols and checks, and expel foreigners without papers. Poor people who feel they have no other choice but to beg will be made aware of their rights to claim welfare and other social benefits, which Baumgartner described as more than enough to keep them off the streets.

Baumgartner said measures would also be introduced to further clean up Berne. More and larger rubbish bins will be placed around the old town, graffiti vandals pursued, and cyclists, skate-boarders and inline skaters asked to be more considerate of pedestrians in the city centre.

Despite the new efforts at cleanliness, Baumgartner stressed he does not want to create a sterile environment.

By Dale Bechtel

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