Police in Dubai battling rise of Ramadan 'begging tourism'

A senior officer said more than half of all beggars caught out during Ramadan last year had visit visas

Dubai Police have launched a new crackdown on beggars preying on the generosity of the public during Ramadan.
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Police in Dubai are stepping up their fight against 'beggar tourists' flocking to the emirate during Ramadan to profit from seasonal goodwill.

Of the 243 people arrested for begging offences throughout the holy month in 2018, 60 per cent were carrying visit visas.

Now police are stepping up their efforts against illegal soliciting being imported into Dubai, often led by "career" criminals.

Launching the force's anti-begging campaign, Colonel Mohammed Akeel said officers will be stationed at known begging hot spots such as mosques and markets and near residential areas.

Incidents of begging  traditionally rise significantly during Ramadan, with about a third of the total number of arrests made in entire year taking place in the holy month.

“More than half of them (illegal beggars) were visiting the emirate for the sole purpose of taking advantage of the giving spirit during the holy month,” said Col Akeel.

Last year's 243 arrests was up significantly on the 154 people brought to justice in 2017.

The total number of begging arrests made annually has nearly halved, however, since 2015.

Brigadier Abdul Haleem Mohammad urged residents not to fall foul of tricksters and instead support official charities.

“Begging is illegal in the UAE and those arrested are often career professionals, who collect money by emotionally manipulating their victims using various tricks,” said Brig Mohammad.

He said that in some cases offenders feign disability or illness, or use children to draw sympathy and encourage the public to part with their dirhams.

Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Ateek, of Dubai's General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs, called on travel companies to be wary about who they issue visit visas to.

“When a beggar is arrested, the tourist company which issued him the visa will be fined Dh2,000 and may face shutdown if more beggars on its visas were arrested,” said Lt Col Ateek.

He urged members of the public to report suspected begging cases to police.

Last year, the Federal National Council agreed a draft law to punish individuals found to be running networks of beggars.

The legislation includes a minimum jail term of six months and a fine of at least Dh100,000.

Individual beggars will spend up to three months in jail and pay at least a Dh5,000 fine.