UAE: Don't fall for sob stories; begging is a crime
Residents in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman have raised concern after seeing beggars in residential, commercial areas, and also at mosques.
Beggars are coming up with new ways to deceive the unsuspecting public, especially now that the country is observing the holy month of Ramadan.
Some have transformed themselves into street vendors plying wares, claiming they had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, residents have said ahead of Ramadan. Some are begging online, as they try to evade the crackdown by the police. Residents in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman have raised concern after seeing beggars in residential, commercial areas, and also at mosques.
Long before the start of the holy month, the police have repeatedly reminded the public that begging is a crime punishable by law and residents should never give alms. Cops have also warned the community against engaging with beggars, especially as they loiter in public places without face masks.
Mohammed Al Kutbi, a Dubai resident, has noticed how beggars have turned into street vendors to make a fast buck. “They would usually gather near traffic lights in industrial and commercial areas, especially in the morning. They would go to the parking lots and approach drivers, asking for help as they sell hand sanitisers. Often, the products don’t have brand stickers,” he said.
Khalid Al Matawa, who also lives in Dubai, echoed Al Kutbi, saying he has spotted a number of beggars at markets. “A beggar was walking in front of a shop, trying to gain the public’s sympathy by showing his amputated hand. Another uses crutches to walk, and a woman constantly asks for alms to buy milk for her baby.”
Umm Mazin had a somewhat unusual encounter as he was accosted by a handsome beggar from Yemen. “He was well dressed but still asked for money to buy food,” he said.
There are also those who use innocent children to tug at people’s heartstrings and earn their trust, said Ali Al Hosani, an Ajman resident.
Danish Kumar, a Sharjah resident, said some are using the raging Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to ply their illegal trade. They conveniently tell a convincing lie that the head of the family lost his job because of the contagion.
Across the Emirates, the police have been stepping up patrols to crack down on beggars, especially this holy month. On the first day of Ramadan, the Dubai Police have arrested 12.
Colonel Ali Salem, director of the department of infiltrators at the Dubai Police, said that under their ‘Let’s Combat Begging’ campaign, an integrated security plan is in place to curb the practice and ensure public safety. Patrols have also been deployed to places expected to be frequented by beggars.
Over the last three years, the Dubai Police arrested 842 beggars, who are mostly of Arab origin.
Similarly, the Sharjah Police have launched the ‘Ramadan Aman’ campaign to prevent begging and restrict the activities of street vendors. Patrols are monitoring beggar movements, especially in residential areas, said an official from the Sharjah Police.
The official also warned the public against those who move door to door, pestering families for donations without adhering to Covid-19 measures.
Organised gangs have been found to be bringing in beggars from countries in Asia, the Middle East, and other Arab nations.
Several beggars arrested by the Sharjah Police said they were brought into the UAE last November and told to ask for alms for six months. They were promised that they would return to their respective countries after “accumulating a lot of wealth”. The gangs provided visas, air tickets, accommodation in lieu of 80 per cent of their daily earnings, the police said.
The Ajman Police have also launched a campaign to combat begging. Col Ahmed Saeed Al Nuaimi, director of the criminal investigation department of the Ajman Police, said several public-private partnership models have been adopted to weed out begging. A special team was formed to keep a tab on beggars and tighten supervision in public places.
Instead of giving alms, the public have been encouraged to donate to registered charities and non-profit organisations. Residents can also help the police eradicate the illegal pratice by reporting beggars.
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