x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Visa firms targeted over beggars

Police are taking aim at travel companies that issue visit and tourist visas to beggars.

DUBAI // Dubai Police are targeting agents and companies that issue visit and tourist visas to beggars, officials announced yesterday.

Ninety per cent of beggars come into the country with tourist or visit visas, said Col Jamal Al Jallaf, the deputy director of the CID.

"Panhandlers come in during the festivals, religious holidays and events. Therefore, the Government has tightened the procedures for granting visas and has also increased the penalty for agencies and institutions that grant visas with prior knowledge of the nature of the visit," he said.

Col Al Jallaf said police are working with common home countries of beggars to study their activities and cross-border movements.

"We have initiated contact with a number of Arab and foreign countries, where the majority of these beggars are from, and have established that they have set travel calendars to different countries targeting festivals and religious holidays," he said, adding that the beggars are essentially professionals.

"During the past year, we have arrested between 142 and 169 beggars in August and September, the months leading up to Ramadan, in comparison with 33 to 40 beggars on average during other months."

More than 290 beggars have been caught in the first six months of this year alone, Col Al Jallaf said. Last year, 716 were arrested; the number was 621 in 2009.

"They were mostly found in Deira and Bur Dubai," he said.

The majority of beggars come from Arabic nationalities, followed by Asians and then Africans.

Emiratis form one per cent of the total number.

A hotline for reporting beggars can be reached at 800 4438.

amustafa@thenational.ae