x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Ramadan beggars will face Dubai police purge

Dubai is becoming an annual destination for groups of street beggars from abroad who descend on the UAE for the holy month.

DUBAI // Police will target beggars who roam Dubai during Ramadan as well as the people who help them enter the Emirates. Dubai is becoming an annual destination for groups of street beggars from abroad who descend on the UAE for the holy month. Police arrested 618 people on begging charges last year and more than half were held when Ramadan fell during August and September. The beggars come mainly from Asian and Arab countries, police said.

The number of arrests during Ramadan was five times that of the average monthly total. This figure indicated that the city had become a favourite destination for beggars, said Mohammad al Muhairi, the Dubai Police director of tourist security. "The majority arrested in the past had entered on a visit visa, either as tourists or businessmen, during Ramadan," he said. "They come in groups and you would find that about 50 of them would have been sponsored by one person or the same tourist agency. It is these individuals, or bodies, we want to crack down on."

Many of those asking for handouts are professional beggars who fly into the Emirates and stay in hotels, Lt Col al Muhairi said. Police will look for telltale signs and information that can lead them to the people who arrange for beggars to enter the UAE. Those who take advantage of people's generosity during the month, which is seen as a period of giving and feeling solidarity with the poor, will be detained.

"We will collect nailing evidence against them and punish them," said Lt Col al Muhairi. The "combat street beggars" campaign is expected to start on July 25 and 60 police patrols will be deployed daily across Dubai. The patrols will target mosques and supermarkets where the beggars usually congregate. "One of the campaign's objectives is to raise awareness among the public on the danger of this [problem] and its bad effects on society," said Brig Khalil al Mansouri, who heads the Dubai CID. "We will uncover for them through the media the twisted ways these professional beggars use to foul the people and win sympathy."

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Interior discussed ways to address the issue of beggars during Ramadan at the second meeting of the higher command for Naturalisation, Residency and Ports. An action plan is expected to be announced before the month begins. Arrested beggars have pretended in the past that they were disabled or had sick children and could not afford to pay for their medicine. Despite the warnings by authorities, many people cannot ignore those they believe are in need.

Ahmad Redwan, a sales executive from Dubai, said he was once stopped by an elderly lady who asked him for money so she could help her son get treatment. "She was from my home country and I really felt sorry for her so I gave Dh200, but she asked me if I could give her another Dh300 as her son's treatment would cost Dh500," he said. "I just did not want to have it on my conscience that I turned down a person in need."

wissa@thenational.ae