Roma beggars removed from illegal makeshift camp
Mayor has clear view that begging does not belong in Helsinki
An illegal camp set up by Roma beggars alongside the Metro line, at Kalasatama in the eastern central district of the capital, was broken up by order of the City of Helsinki on Tuesday.
Another camp not far away was dismantled by the authorities on Monday.
The mendicant Roma, most of whom are from Romania, collected their belongings peacefully, and city workers then broke up the makeshift plywood structures that they had been living in.
According to Insp. Ismo Juvonen, the police were on hand to provide assistance if necessary, but he stated that everything went quite smoothly.
As yet it is unclear where the Roma beggars will find accommodation now that the camp has been dismantled.
One of those who was moved on, Virginia Moldova, had praise for the police restraint, but was otherwise extremely angry over what had happened.
"Nowhere can you find such evil people as in Finland", she declared, and then qualified the remark to mean the decision-makers.
She said she expected she would spend the following night out of doors, for instance under a nearby flyover. "I'll just put a mattress down on the ground sleep there. Maybe we'll be able to find some kind-hearted soul who will help us".
Moldova and her colleagues said they do not intend to go back to Romania just yet.
"We have children to support in Romania. Unless we are abroad, they will have nothing to eat", said Moldova, and showed a picture of a little girl.
The Roma camp by the Metro line had been in existence since August, and those living there said they had built the shacks out of material found from dumpsters and building-site skips.
Apparently there were no minors living in the camp.
The Mayor of Helsinki Jussi Pajunen commented on the breaking up of the camp on Tuesday, insisting that the Roma are EU citizens and that they are to be treated while in Finland just as any other tourists, and that they should obey the same set of rules as everyone else.
Pajunen believes that the city should have the ability to forbid begging through local byelaws.
The city has justified the dismantling of the Roma camp on the grounds that it does not accept temporary lodging on its land.
There are, however, a number of not very dissimilar camps and shacks in the woods and on wasteland within the city limits and occupied by Finnish derelicts and homeless alcoholics.
Pajunen acknowledged as much and stated that in terms of the rules they are in exactly the same situation.
The City Board will discuss the future of the Roma beggars next Monday.
Helsinki has promised that the Roma and their belongings from the dismantled camps will not be moved on from under the adjacent bridge for three days.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Beggars cause position of Roma to be taken up by EU (11.6.2008)
Beggars on their knees cause consternation on Helsinki streets (23.10.2007)
Romanian beggars set up camp on open land between highways (20.5.2008)
Helsinki residents say beggars more assertive than before (19.5.2009)
Mayor Pajunen wants new law to ban begging (19.5.2009)
Helsinki street patrol tries to improve life of Eastern European beggars in the capital (18.9.2008)