Slumming in Stockholm

Elena Stanescu and Mariana Ion, begging in central Stockholm. Last month, someone threw gasoline on them. Mariana, set ablaze, had to run to a fountain. CreditMoa Karlberg for The New York Times, 8/8/15
Some musings on the current state of the Sweden .. and how a culture can change....  kind of deep I know but I was deeply affected by seeing the beggars in Stockholm this summer.  The Roma or Gypsies as they are commonly called were everywhere, holding out their cups or hands for spare change, just sitting there and saying "hello" in their bathrobes and long skirts.

Turns out that the poor of EU have learned to migrate to collect money in the more affluent countries, and return to their own when they have enough.  Romania, from which many Roma come, has one of the lowest wealth levels in the E.U, and given their status as part of the European Union their citizens may move freely within the 28 nation bloc.

I won't give all the details (read this excellent article for more insightful information - from The New York Times) but needless to say it has given many Swedes some serious pause for thought and questioned their values.  Do you give the beggars money or not?  They don't get government assistance because they don't live in Sweden, but they also don't add anything either.  I felt guilty seeing them beg, but honestly I chose not to help.  Does that make me awful or just American?  I guess we're used to seeing beggars as awful as that is ... and I didn't understand who these people were at the time.  I haven't ever seen this before in Sweden!

I really didn't know what to do, but then I read this - - about an old Swedish slum in Chicago and it reminded me that at one point or another we've all been newcomers and needed a helping hand.  So yes to helping, and yes to giving opportunities, but what about those who just take the money and run?  The people in Swedish Hollow in St. Paul MN were prosecuted and considered the lowest of the low until the next wave of immigrants, and then they made a better life and moved up.  It's the American Way.
The above is a film of the shanty town in Malmo, the third largest city in Sweden, and although not a lovely city it is one with a proud past, a strong worker culture and many nice parks and other features like canals, castles and the Turning Torso.  Looking at this film is not meant to be inflammatory but it is a view into a part of the Sweden that personally I have never seen - migrants living in squalor.

The Roma are nomads and this is part of their identification, but it seems that times have moved on yet they haven't.  I mean is it OK to just wander into a country, ask for money, and leave?  And what will EU do with this quandary?  It's a huge issue and further complicated by the fact that many beggars unfortunately put their lives on the line in the beautiful land of Sweden (77 crimes in the last 18 months against beggars were reported) and that's just not right.
from -


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