Brussels struggles to cope with the increasing number of beggars that are paving the way for a cyclical sociological problem in the EU capital. Beggars, most of whom are women and young children, carry bags, suitcases, blankets and cardboard boxes to sit on throughout the city.
Begging in Belgium was excluded from the scope of crime through a law enacted in 1993. Everyone in the country has the right to beg legally. In Europe, where anti-Muslim hatred is on the rise, the fact that some women beggars partially cover their heads creates the perception that those who are begging are Muslims. However, the majority of beggars are coming from Eastern Europe as many are part of the Roma community. Many of them are not able to speak the languages spoken in the country, other than French. According to a reporter from Anadolu Agency (AA), a beggar woman said using a few words of French that she was coming from Romania with her five children waiting at home.
It is not known whether beggars in Belgium are brought to the country on their own or through illegal organizations. The Belgian authorities acknowledge that there is a lack of intel. Police records indicate that beggars act in an “organized” way, but it is not yet clear whether they are brought to the country by human trafficking organizations.
The decision of a Belgian court in 2015 reveals that Roma people who are subjected to racism and discrimination in Romania are brought to the country on promises of “good income and better quality of life” through some organizations. In 2015, four people who brought citizens from the Roma community to Belgium with such promises were sentenced to five years in prison.