Around 250 people in Lausanne have demonstrated against the begging ban in canton Vaud, western Switzerland, which came into force on Thursday. Beggars now face being fined CHF50-100 ($50-100).
“Begging is not a crime”, was the slogan of the rally. Ada Marra, a parliamentarian for the leftwing Social Democratic Party, regretted in a speech that the “protection of the weakest was no longer guaranteed” and that the “poorest would now be criminalised”.
Until now, begging in Lausanne, which attracts most of the canton’s beggars, was tolerated by the authorities but was limited. For example, begging was not allowed in the presence of minors, near bank machines or on public transport.
Anyone found organising begging rings or forcing minors or dependants to beg will be fined CHF500-2,000. However, the cantonal council plans to submit exceptions to the begging ban to cantonal parliament soon.
In October the Swiss Federal Court rejected an appeal lodged by opponents. Switzerland’s highest court ruled the ban did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.