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Trieste mulls set of 'anti-begging' laws

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Trieste mulls set of 'anti-begging' laws
File photo of a woman begging in Italy: Gabriel Buoys/AFP
09:54 CET+01:00
A new set of regulations could see hefty fines imposed in the northern Italian city of Trieste for begging and even just lying down on public benches.

The new laws would forbid lying or sitting on the ground for extended periods of time, lying down on public benches. Camping out in the streets or other public spaces including squares, pavements, and anywhere "close to buildings on historic or monumental value" would also be banned.

All forms of begging would be forbidden, and anyone giving money to beggars in public areas would also face repercussions.

Trieste's newly elected administration has proposed the rules as part of an update to the city's police regulations, the current version of which has been in force since 1926. 

In a statement on the city website, deputy mayor Pierpaolo Roberti of the Northern League party said the new laws were a response to "changes in social habits" and would help ensure "public order, hygiene, protection of the urban environment and of the health of citizens."

In addition to the laws seen as targeting the city's homeless community, fines have been increased for other acts including smoking or drinking alcohol in public parks.

Roberti said on his Facebook page that the update to the regulations aimed to "stop the decline of a city that was once top for quality of life", claiming that the previous administration had left a "legacy" of fake beggars, illegal parking, fights and prostitution.

Before the new set of rules can come into force, they will go through two more rounds of checks with local authorities, and then it will be up to the City Council to approve them. They have already been approved by the local council, chaired by newly appointed mayor Roberto Dipiazza.

However, they have met with some resistance.

The local spokesperson for the Five Star Movement, Paolo Menis, said that "fining people for acts of charity is dictatorial nonsense" and that the new rules were an affront on people's freedom, according to local paper Trieste Prima.

"Roberti plans to ban sitting on the ground,," Menis added. "It would be laughable if it wasn't a serious worry."

The fines for breaking the rules vary depending on the act and the circumstances. Begging, lying down, sitting or sleeping on the ground for extended periods could result in a fine of between €150 and €900, while damage to public buildings could cost you up to a pricey €10,000 - plus the cost of cleaning or repairs.

Drinking or smoking in public parks and gardens will result in a €100-600 fine - the severity depends on factors such as whether children were present - while anyone parking illegally would be fined between €25 and €250.

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