x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Abu Dhabi will oust Ramadan beggars

Authorities are bracing for an influx of beggars seeking to exploit the charity of Muslims during Ramadan.

ABU DHABI // Authorities are bracing for an influx of beggars into the UAE seeking to exploit the charity of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins next month. Ministry of Interior inspectors are prepared to round up and clear away beggars and hawkers expected to flock to the city on visit visas during the holy month, when Muslims have a duty to give money to charity.

Brig Abdullah al Bedaiwi, the ministry's deputy director general for criminal security, said beggars and illegal vendors would be arrested and detained pending legal proceedings and deportation. They could then be blacklisted and banned from the country. "Any money gained through begging will be confiscated and the beggar will be deported," Brig Bedaiwi said. "The beggar will bear the cost of deportation. If he or she cannot afford it, the sponsor must bear this responsibility."

Last year 110 beggars, including 70 from Arab countries, as well as two hawkers were arrested in the Emirates. "The Ministry of Interior wants to raise the public's awareness," Brig Bedaiwi said. "We release statements to newspapers about the negative aspects of begging. There are charity organisations which collect zakat and help the poor," he said, referring to charitable donations that are a Muslim duty.

Brig Bedaiwi said the Interior Ministry was also co-ordinating with the Ministry of Justice to stop the issue of fund-raising permits except for licensed organisations and well-known individuals in the UAE. If visas are misused, the sponsor of the person responsible would be barred from obtaining further visit visas, he added. Emiratis caught begging will be referred to the Public Prosecution on fraud charges if they are wealthy, but if they are genuinely poor they will be given help by a charity and warned they will face punishment if they are caught begging again.

Brig Bedaiwi added that the media could help the ministry's campaign. "The same is true for mosques. During Friday sermons the ill effects of begging are discussed and those who need financial help are directed to charity organisations," he said, directing people to a toll-free number - 800 2208 - to report incidents of begging. @Email:rruiz@thenational.ae