Reflections on Gothenburg
Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden and the fifth largest in the Nordic countries. The population is around half a million and the city was founded in 1621. Gothenburg also has the largest university in Sweden with 60,000 students. Daylight cana last 18 hours in the summer and only 6.5 hours in December. When one arrives it seems a nice place with most hotels arranged around a central square with the Centraal Train Station on one side.
My impressions of Gothenburg were rather coloured by the huge number of Eastern European immigrants begging in the square rattling their plastic cups in one’s face and trying to sell a magazine called ” Sofia ” which made me presume they were Bulgarian. They were hunting in packs and although not frightening to me, I could see that to others they could be persuaded as being so. In the evnings they were inside the train station taking up most of the chairs and seats and in the day they operated in and around the square. A head ” beggar” a large woman sat on a bench barking out orders in a language that seemed alien to me.
The city of Gothenburg portrays itself as “soft and more human” when dealing with poor EU migrants, local paper Göteborgs Posten wrote. But the situation is far from black and white.
In 2010 Gothenburg’s social services paid for 28 beggars to return home. In 2013 that number was 93. The largest increase of those sent home has been seen with beggars from Romania.Between 2010 and June of 2014, the Gothenburg paid to send home 135 Romanians. Norwegians came in second place, with 35 getting a free ticket home, and Bulgaria came in third with 23 beggars sent home.
The police in Gothenburg suspect the begging is organised, however that doesn’t make it a crime. There’s a difference if relatives are collaborating or if someone forces poor people to beg and then takes the money.
Several cases of human trafficking have been revealed in Stockholm where people have been brought to Sweden by criminal networks. Disabled people and children are in special demand by the networks.
The Gothenburg police have not been able to clarify if there is someone in the background making money from the beggars in the city.
In contrast the hotels are nice, comfortable and the staff ultra polite. The food is good, heavily fish-based. The affluence is obvious with hotels like the excellent Clarion Post having expensive Japanese Sushi restaurants. In the square one must avoid the trams if not the beggars as they take no prisoners and seemingly come from all directions. There is also an amusing angle with the emphasis in Sweden on living healthily, and thousands of bicycles in the square, but with some sponsored by burger companies. This seems a good city of not an exciting one.