Finnish Roma and Ministry of Interior knew of influx of Central European beggars in advance (10th, Jan. 2008)
"This comes as no surprise. We knew to expect something like this" says Sarita Friman-Korpela, Secretary of RONK, the Advisory Board on Romani Affairs in Finland.
She is commenting on the question of the Roma from Eastern Europe who have (taken) up positions on the streets of Helsinki with begging bowls in front of them.
"The Roma in Romania and Bulgaria are living in abject poverty. Years ago we said that if nothing is done about their conditions, as soon as the borders are opened [via EU membership], something like this will happen."
The Advisory Board on Romani Affairs in Finland will be discussing the beggars at the beginning of February, when the board will meet for the first time under its new membership.
Nevertheless, Friman-Korpela says that on the individual level, the finnish Roma have already had plenty to say about the mendicants, who have been causing consternation among Helsinki residents and a certain amount of frustration for the authorities. The Roma have had identical concerns.
"The first thing that should be done would be to determine what their intentions are. If they really want to settle here, get a home and a job, then they should immediately get in touch with local Roma organisations, for instance with a view to learning the language", says Friman-Korpela.
"This is one of the knock-on effects of the free movement of people under the EU system", observes Esko Ruokonen from the Ministry of the Interior.
The fact that there have been signs that the begging is organised is one aspect that has caused particular concern. "If people are being forced by someone to go out into the cold streets and down on their knees with a begging-bowl, we might be getting close to something like human trafficking", comments Ruokonen.
Whilst the whole matter has been troublesome for the local population, while the beggars are not actually committing any form of crime under finnish legislation, there is little that (anyone) can do about it.
About the only response is to withhold alms. As Pertti Visunen of the Ministry of the Interior's Immigration Department observed, "If the Finns stopped giving to them, they would stop coming."
(Ah, but wait, some of them are committing crime. It's just that the police have a short memory) from
http://www.hs.fi/english/print/1135231940761 (printable) we learn
Helsinki police find stolen goods in van used by Romanian beggars (19th, Nov. 2007)
Three Romanian flower sellers remanded in custody
Police in Helsinki recently conducted a search in a van that at least some of the Romanians who have been begging on the city's streets have used as a place to sleep.
The search yielded a number of stolen mobile telephones, cameras, music players, and at least one GPS car navigator. Petri Juvonen of the Helsinki police say that some of the goods were wrapped in paper and taped beneath the ceiling panels of the vehicles.
Police arrested four Romanian citizens, three of whom were later remanded in custody by Helsinki District Court on suspicion of theft.
Those arrested included one woman about 60 years of age and two men of about 30, one of whom is the son of the older woman. All three had sold flowers on the centre of Helsinki. Juvonen says that all three could face two months of pretrial detention*.
Previously, the police had thought that Romanian beggars and flower pedlars had not been involved in crime. "We had thought that they operate in their own sectors. However, now it seems that they all do everything - that is, that theft is linked with begging and the selling of flowers", Juvonen says.
He would not estimate how many Romanian beggars there might be in the Helsinki region now. Pictures taken by the recovered cameras suggest that there could be many more people involved than those that would fit into the two vans inspected by the police.
Juvonen noted that Romanian beggars and flower sellers have been appearing in Helsinki regularly in the summer; previously they have not stayed in this country into the autumn months.
Police say that previously, only women linked with Romanian pickpocket gangs were involved in theft. "Now both men and women are involved", Juvonen says.
In addition, the group has been travelling through Southern Finland, and has been in this country for a long time. The first arrived in May.
Juvonen says that increased vigilance is the only way that the Helsinki Police can stop begging linked with criminal activity.
"The risk of arrest and punishment should be so big that they would not find it worthwhile to come to Finland or stay here."
However, the head of the investigation unit of the Aliens' Police, Jaakko Heinilä, suspects that begging and criminal activities linked with it have come to Finland to stay.
He says that expulsion from the country will be considered for the Romanians that are now being held.
*two months of pretrial detention - I presume that includes a warm bed & food. A step up from a van, I'd think.