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Ban on child begging once again in force in Brussels
A Brussels regulation that bans children under the age of 16 from begging is once again in force after being suspended earlier this year.
The resolution was first approved back in March in a bid to reduce the number of children begging on Brussels streets, reports Bruzz.
But it drew sharp criticism, in particular because it included fines. Several anti-poverty associations came together and successfully lobbied for the suspension of the regulation, saying it wasn’t in the public interest.
The organisations included Ligue des droits humains, ATD Quart Monde Belgique, Défense des enfants international Belgique, Forum, Common Homeless Front and CODE.
They argued that the regulation was aimed exclusively at children accompanying beggars and took issue with the fact that its language referred to “beggars of Romanian descent”.
But after the temporary suspension, the regulation automatically came into force again as no appeal was lodged, according to local government minister Bernard Clerfayt (Défi).
Regulation includes awareness raising initiatives
The regulation includes an obligation for Brussels police officers to make beggars accompanied by minors aware of the ban.
Police must also alert them to the compulsory education requirement for children aged 5 to 18.
Parents are given the option of enrolling children between the ages of 3 and 18 in urban education in Brussels with all school fees paid for by the city, including lunches for primary school children.
If parents of begging children are caught again, it’s considered a repeat offence that risks a fine of up to €350.
Although the regulation still includes fines, the city says none have yet been issued.
“This is mainly due to the fact that we no longer see children begging in the city centre, so the regulation is bearing fruit,” Carole Poncin, spokesperson for the office of Mayor Philippe Close (PS) told Le Soir.
But critics say this proves their fears that beggars will simply move to a new location in order to avoid fines, which doesn’t actually solve the problem of systemic poverty.
The city says it wants other Brussels municipalities to enact similar bans with fines to prevent beggars from simply congregating wherever it’s legal.
But critics of the new regulation don’t plan to back down. Another appeal of the regulation is being lodged with Belgium’s Council of State.
Photo: (c) Belga/Herwig Vergult