Stavanger (Norway): Locals claim that it is a recent happening, just about a couple of years back. But the presence of beggars and prostitutes in and around the Sentrum area, which is the main downtown and the happening place, is quite discerning, more so as the city is considered to be the oil capital of Norway.
While popular belief is that the economic slowdown over the past few years and the financial crisis in some of the European countries is a reason why some of the men and women of these countries have opted to come to the cities of Norway, where the economy is booming, courtesy the off shore oil finds, and take to begging or fall back on the world’s oldest profession, authorities are apprehensive.
Olav, an old time resident of the city said that both begging and prostitution were unheard of in almost entire Norway and more so in Stavanger. But of late, the presence of both on the streets had become a matter or concern not only for the local people, who are against it, but also the officials who fear that there may be some organized racket behind both and are thinking of ways to curb the menace.
He said that though Norwegians voted against the country joining EU, but Norway is an associated member, and as such most of the residents of the European community of nations do not require a visa to enter. Because of this people are free to enter and while some have taken to begging, younger girls can be seen in their heavy make-up and flashy dresses, which make them stand out.
Olav said that patronizing the prostitutes is illegal and can bring trouble to men, but the girls are free to roam the streets and show their presence, which is not an offence in any way. On week ends, when their presence is the maximum, the police can also be seen keeping a close watch on the happenings.
Meanwhile there are fears in certain quarters that the beggars and prostitutes may not be just individuals who have come to the country because of their citizenship of the EU countries to make ends meet, but certain organized groups may be behind them. There could be organized gangs running the number of beggars on the streets and taking their cut and likewise with the case of the prostitutes.