DUBAI// With the start of Ramadan less than two weeks away, police are asking the public not to give to beggars, many of whom have flown into the UAE specifically to prey on people’s good will during the holy month.
Last year, 179 people were arrested for begging in Dubai during Ramadan, an increase on 157 detained in 2013. Among those taken into custody last year were 13 children. So far this year, officers have recorded 180 cases of begging, and that number is expected to increase once the month of fasting is announced around June 18.
“The government of Dubai makes sure to take care of its citizens and residents and there are countless charity organisations whose goals are to help those in need,” said Col Mohammed Rashid bin Surei, director of the department of tourism security.
Col bin Surei said some beggars have taken to using social media apps such as Whatsapp to appeal to people’s emotions.
“The beggars would send a sob story to countless users, hoping that someone would transfer them money,” he said, adding that anyone who receives such messages should contact the authorities.
Col bin Surei said police and the authorities are ready to help people in need of assistance, but those posing as beggars will face prosecution.
“If we arrest beggars who are in fact in need of financial assistance, we will refer them to relevant organisation, but if a person is not in need of money, then he, along with any money, will be transferred to public prosecution.”
Col bin Surei said beggars are mostly found in the Jumeirah, Deira, Al Tawr and Al Mamzar neighbourhoods, as well as near mosques during prayers times.
“Mosques are not places for charity but places for worship,” he said.
Anyone arrested for begging will be referred to prosecutors and will be jailed and then deported if found guilty. Companies that are found to be sponsoring people caught begging face fines of up to Dh7,000.
The public is asked to report beggars by calling the 800-CID (243) hotline.
Officers in Ajman are taking a similarly tough stance with those found asking for money from strangers at mosques, supermarkets and even banks.
“This phenomenon is uncivilised,” said Lt Col Abdullah Al Matroushi, director of Ajman’s criminal investigation department. “We have organised a campaign this year in order to unite all citizens, residents and institutions to reduce beggars through educating the public and tightening control over the places targeted by beggars.”
Lt Col Al Matroushi said 107 beggars were arrested during Ramadan last year despite the fact the emirate has many charities that help the needy.
He urged all citizens and residents not to be sympathetic with beggars and instead donate to charities. He also asked the public to report beggars to the police.