Recent regulation, which banned begging by children under 16 years old, has been overturned by the Brussels Region, following complaints from the League of Human Rights (LDH), according to Belgian broadcaster RTBF.
The human rights group opposed the measure as it considers the move as a form of criminalisation, while the City of Brussels is not competent enough in providing youth protection.
The original regulation, first adopted on 28 March, aimed to put an end to begging by adults accompanied by children under sixteen years old.
The city was aiming to break up organised “begging networks”, which have been observed by the Brussels Police Force. These gangs allegedly used “professional minor beggars.”
The original text banning the practice of child begging states that children were often recruited children of vulnerable families, offering them a roof and income, in exchange for a share of the children's’ earnings.
The regulation would have handed down fines of €350 to adult beggars accompanied by children who repeatedly fail to abide by obligatory education laws and offers of support to homeless families.
- Over 700,000 people are homeless in Europe
- Police bust gang who trafficked in children and forced them to beg
According to the official decision of the Brussels region, the policy was overruled as several articles of the statute overstepped in regulatory scope or did not relate to the maintenance of public order.
The LDH welcomed the suspension, stating that this marked an opportunity to rethink this regulation in such a way as to fully respect the best interests of children, as criminalising minors does not actually solve the problem.
The League for Human Rights had previously denounced anti-begging regulations as an attempt to stigmatise and criminalise beggars, as well as legitimising another form of violence against families fleeing discrimination in their homes countries.
The City of Brussels and the municipal council have 40 days to justify its regulation to the Brussels Region, or they will be forced to fully withdraw it.