LUXEMBOURG: Is begging such a big issue?

Euronews (14.02.2024) – Claire, an architect living near Luxembourg City, said that begging has become more noticeable over the past few years, with more people in the streets. “I also noticed, and I don’t think this is limited to the capital, that there’s more organised begging,” she told Euronews.

“You’d see people being dropped off in the morning and being picked up in the evening, always the same people in the same corners,” she added.

“In the past years there has been a noticeable increase in people living on the streets,” Lisa, a Luxembourg retiree, told Euronews. “But I don’t believe a begging ban is the answer,” she added.

“We should be looking at the root cause of the problems. We have known for years that there is a housing crisis in Luxembourg, yet there doesn’t seem to be political will to deal with creating affordable housing for all,” she continued.

Claire thinks that the ban is “disgusting” and a “band-aid solution” to a deeper issue. “It’s all about face and it’s going to make our problem worse. You’re allowed to be homeless but you’re not allowed to beg on the street,” she said.

“People who are begging are people who lost everything in their lives,” Luc, a teacher in Luxembourg, told Euronews. “The discussion should not be about allowing begging or not, but how to concretely help these people,” he continued.

Is banning begging legal?

According to over 4,500 Luxembourg residents who signed a petition forcing the country’s parliament to debate the ban, the city’s ban isn’t legal. The local branch of Amnesty International agrees:

“There is clear jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on the subject matter (of mendicity): in the case of Lacatus v. Switzerland (2021), the Court found a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention when imposing sanctions, such as fines, against persons begging in the street,” Fernanda Pérez Solla, Director ad interim at Amnesty International Luxembourg, told Euronews.

“The European Court has understood that begging allows for providing for basic needs and that persons in vulnerable situations have a right, inherent in human dignity, to meet those basic needs through begging,” she said. “Moreover, the imposition of penalties under such circumstances appeared to be disproportionate.”

“If we understand that international human rights law, as interpreted by the European court, does not allow banning mendicity in general, Luxembourg has neither legal rule, for instance, in the criminal code, to forbid it,” Pérez Solla said.

“That is, though municipal councils can adopt police regulations, their content should not contradict human rights law or (the absence of a prohibition in) national law,” she added

As things stand, the begging ban remains in a legal limbo. The country’s government has promised to go ahead with a series of planned reforms to Luxembourg’s Criminal Code which should put an end to the uncertainty surrounding the measure, but until then the ban will continue to be implemented in the capital.

The reforms, according to the government, will not ban begging on a national level – which would be against European law – but will give more room for manoeuvre to municipal authorities.