Per Eriksson, CEO of City in Partnership in front of a campaign sign. Photo: Ulla engberg/SR
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Per Eriksson, CEO of City in Partnership in front of a campaign sign. Photo: Ulla Engberg/SR
Martin Valfridsson, national co-ordinator for vulnerable EU-citizens in Sweden. Photo: Ulla Engberg/SR
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Martin Valfridsson, national co-ordinator for vulnerable EU-citizens in Sweden. Photo: Ulla Engberg/SR

Campaign to help poor EU-migrants find work back home

"Most of them want to go back to Romania"
4:09 min

Swedish businesses are getting involved in a new campaign to help vulnerable EU-citizens who are begging on the streets of Stockholm.

The campaign is simply called "Help people who are begging" (Hjälp Människor Som Tigger) and has been initiated by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce and the organisation City in Partnership, which is made up of Stockholm City, property owners and local businesses.

The money will go to three organisations that have been working for a long time in Romania, on different projects that support the poorest communities there, helping people to education and finding a way to get an income.

Per Eriksson, CEO of City in Partnership, tells Radio Sweden that everybody must decide for themselves if they want to give money to beggars or not, but that he is convinced that a long-term solution is better served by giving to organisations that are working in for example Romania.

Some people are cynical and say that businesses are only involved because they want to move the beggars from the shops to that they can sell more. What do you think about that?

"I think it is true in one way, but when you speak to people who are involved in businesses, to the property owners, they understand that this is a much bigger problem in a human way and I think that when you speak to them and tell them about the misery in their own countries, how people suffer, they also understand that this is a much bigger problem than just some inconvenience for the customers outside their stores," he said.

Rickard Klerfors works for the organisation Heart to Heart, which has been working in Romania for decades. The latest project offers training to people in making wicker baskets, and has helped set up a distribution chain and in running their own business. At the moment, the project needs more workers, so the organisation wants to recruit people who are currently on the streets in Sweden, begging, to return to get training and a job in Romania.

"That is what most of them want. They have been very disappointed, and rightly so, on the Romanian society and how life turned out for them. But when I speak to them, it is very clear that they consider Romania as their home country and they would like to live there, and to support themselves through their own work," said Klerfors.

One supporter of the campaign is Martin Valfridsson, the national co-ordinator for vulnerable EU-citizens in Sweden.

"The Swedish citizens are starting to discuss if this of giving money in the paper mugs the long-term solution for these very vulnerable persons living in Romania and Bulgaria. Therefore I think that launching this campaign today is a way of showing an alternative, 'how can I help in a more structured and a long-term view in their countries of origin'," he said.

There is an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 people begging on the streets in Sweden today. But lately, the debate on what to do about them and how best to support them has been overshadowed with the far greater influx of refugees from war-torn countries, from Syria and Afghanistan. Martin Valfridsson thinks that the EU-migrants have noticed the shift in focus.

"I think they receive less money in their paper mugs today, because a lot of Swedes are more and more starting to give money to the migrants coming from Syria or Afghanistan or wherever, therefore I think this campaign is a way of reminding that the situation in Romania and Bulgaria has not been solved yet. I think the Swedish people can have two thoughts in their heads at the same time," he said.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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