Muscat: Expats and illegal migrants – some under the age of 12 – made up over 80 per cent of those caught begging on the streets of Oman last year, according to government data.
And in a shocking interview, one of the officials in charge of caching them says many child beggars are put out on the streets by their own parents, and return to beg even after they are caught and punished. Children and women as old as 60 have been caught asking for handouts in Oman, according to the data, and some of these expats come from professional family homes with no signs of financial distress.
Less than 20 per cent of those caught are Omani, according to the stats.
Despite belonging to homes where at least one parent is employed, some children are begging on the streets. A 16-year-old Middle Eastern national, whose father runs a profitable business, in addition to having a full-time job, was found begging on the streets of Muscat, officials revealed.
The Ministry of Social Development is working hard to eradicate begging in Oman.
“We ask the parents of these children to be accountable because sometimes parents force their children to beg,” Bassam Nasser Hamdan Al Hajri, social monitor at the Ministry of Social Development, said.
“They are the ones who bring children to the begging sites. So, parents must be held accountable. For example, we saw a child begging on the streets even though the financial condition of his family was good and his father worked in a company. So, why was this child forced to beg?
“Sometimes, this is due to neglect by parents. They do not keep an eye on their children or do not provide for their needs and desires. Some parents pay their children to go out and beg, some children learn this from their parents or older siblings, some of them have entered the country illegally because of wars and other struggles at home and are trying to help their family in their country.”
To resolve this issue, the ministry has set up an anti-begging team, which works in collaboration with other agencies and social organisations. In 2017, it managed to catch 1,152 beggars across the various governorates of the Sultanate, 175 of whom were children aged 18 years or under, according to a report from the Ministry of Social Development. Also, of these, 225 beggars were Omani, 152 were men and another 73 were women.
The Ministry also embarked on more than 2,000 anti-begging campaigns across the nation last year.
According to Article 297 of the new Omani Penal Code, begging is illegal and those caught engaging in such an action will be imprisoned for no less than one month and not more than a year, with fines ranging from OMR50 to OMR100. The rule applies to those begging in public places such as roads, shops and mosques, or private establishments such as peoples’ homes and companies.
“Most child beggars are expatriates and illegal immigrants in the Sultanate,” Al Hajri revealed. “If a child beggar is an illegal immigrant under 16 years, he or she is referred to the care centre. If he or she is older than 16 years, he or she will be deported. In general, the punishment depends on the type of case and the frequency of begging,” he said.
“One of the cases still undergoing judicial proceedings is that of a 16-year-old child from an Arab country, who was arrested on charges of begging for the second time. His family members are residents of Oman. The first time he was arrested, he received a reprimand and was sent to his father. But he was arrested for the second time on the same charge and that case is still underway,” Al Hajri remarked.
Meanwhile, 730 beggars were held under police custody, 195 beggars were evicted with the help of their sponsors, and another two came under scrutiny of the Oman labour inspection teams. The distribution of these beggars showed that 89 of them (46 men, 43 women) were under the age of 12, while 86 beggars (62 men, 24 women) were between the ages of 12 and 18.
As many as 521 beggars (320 men, 201 women) were between the ages of 18 and 40, while 386 beggars were aged between 40 and 60. In addition, 142 beggars were above 60 years.
“According to the data, the main reasons behind this phenomenon are openness and accessibility of tourist visas and treatment visas in the
Sultanate. Also, beggars want to get easy money and sometimes, it is followed by family disintegration, which makes the mother and children resort to begging. Then, there are psychological reasons as well, “Hamood Al Mandhari, head of social development department in Al Seeb, said.
“An increase in the number of wars in neighbouring countries, deterioration of economic conditions, and increase in the number of illegal migrants in the Sultanate also add to the numbers,” Al Mandhari said.
“There were cases where beggars were arrested but after an investigation, it was found that their financial situation was good. They simply resorted to begging for easy access to money. In one such case, a man was arrested for begging, but when the police intervened, they found money at his home. The beggar said he owned it and did not get it through begging,” Al Mandhari remarked.
As many as 630 beggars were reported in the Muscat Governorate, with North and South Batinah accounting for 203 more. Dhofar had 136 beggars, Buraimi had 42, 22 came from Al Dhahirah, 12 were found in Al Dakhiliyah, and another seven were seen in North and South Sharqiyah. In addition, another 100 beggars were found to enter the Sultanate illegally from one of its neighbouring countries.
“Muscat is ranked first in terms of the number of beggars, according to statistics, as it is the capital of the Sultanate and has a large number of markets. Beggars are concentrated in the state of Seeb because it is located in the centre of the province and near other governorates. The availability of cheap housing, as compared with other cities in the province, also acts as a reason, besides the high number of expats in Muscat,” Al Mandhari said.
He warned: “A person who begs wants his money easily and in an effortless manner. Citizens must not empathise with beggars. Most of these beggars are fraudsters or illegal immigrants. This affects the society economically, socially, and in a non-civilised manner.”
Source Credit: Times Of Oman