Denmark's legislation against begging, introduced in 2017, has so far resulted in convictions of only foreign citizens, raising concerns about police discrimination.
According to the Christian newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, the "anti-beggning" law resulted in convictions for 52 foreign nationals, including 32 Romanians and at least five Bulgarians, but no Danes. Of the individuals convicted, 49 foreigners were sentenced to 14 days in prison, while the remaining three only spent a week behind bars.
The prevalence of foreigners amid a conspicuous absence of Danes has spurred concerns about ongoing discrimination by Danish police, despite Conservative Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen making it clear that no discrimination must occur in relation to the law.
"Given that expert assessments find that half of begging is done by Danes, these new numbers suggest discrimination is occurring in police work," Maja Løvbjerg Hansen of charity Gadejuristen ("Street Lawyer"), which provides legal help to underprivileged individuals.
Copenhagen Police Deputy Chief Superintendent Jakob Søndergaard has denied any allegations of discrimination and stressed that charges against Danish nationals for breaking the begging law were also in the pipeline.
The recent spate of convictions with regard to the anti-begging law has also left Danish political parties divided.
Left-wing opposition parties the Alternative and the Red-Green Alliance both shared their concern over the law specifically targeting foreign citizens.
"I really hope discrimination is not taking place, but I fear it is," Rosa Lund of the Red-Green Alliance told Kristeligt Dagblad.
By contrast, Martin Henriksen, immigration spokesman for the right-wing Danish People's Party said he was pleased with the skewed results, stressing that they totally correspond with the initial aim of the law.
"We wanted to target foreign beggars from the very start and would have liked to see the law specifically mention foreigners. It is a good thing that the law is working as intended," Henriksen said. "For many years, the number of foreign homeless and beggars in Copenhagen and other large towns has been overwhelming. We have not solved the problem 100 percent, but we have advanced a great deal," he added.
Danish law and international conventions prevent discrimination based on race.