Beggars increasingly becoming innovative
Beggars are a common sight on the streets. They use a number of innovative methods to ask for money from motorists and pedestrians including emotional blackmail, threat of bodily harm or damage to the vehicle and being strategically stationed to make the most out of the unsuspecting passerby.
“I was held up in traffic near Batha recently when a small boy abruptly showed up beside my window asking for money,” said Boy D. Mallari who works for an IT company. Mallari said he refused to give the boy any money at first knowing that begging is illegal but became alarmed when the boy showed him a lighter as if to say that he would set his car on fire.
“He struck fear in my heart and I complained to a driver beside me who told the boy in Arabic to go away,” he said.
Beside using threatening tactics, young boys will also scratch the car’s body with a piece of metal or a wire if a driver refuses to give money.
“A few riyals is not a drain on the pocket but acceding to a beggar’s request for money is tolerating begging which is illegal in the Kingdom,” he said adding that the boy should be at school so he would have a better life when he grows up.
Some sources said that parents force their children to beg and a cruel father would even punish his son if he brings home less than the set target.
“It is shocking to learn about parents forcing their children to beg and fixing a certain amount of money that they must bring home. We’re aware of commercial entities setting sales targets for salesmen but this is the first time we learned about setting goals for begging. It means that it has become a lucrative business,” said S. H. Moulana, an expat.
Other beggars, particularly the elderly, freely roam the streets, entering coffee shops and fast-food chains asking for money.
In a report, Badr Bajabir, secretary general of the Permanent Committee on Human Trafficking, said begging in the Kingdom has become a lucrative pastime and even the least entrepreneurial can rake in a monthly income of $15,000 a month.
“They belong to a syndicate. Somebody drops them in the area where they intend to beg and fetches them at night,” said a Sudanese.
Other beggars merely wait in a place where kind individuals pass. One such area is near a government hospital in the Saudi capital.
“There are organized crimes behind this trade, which is an obvious example of human trafficking,” he said.
Some women and children, he said, are taken to unscrupulous doctors to permanently disfigure them before they are sent out to the streets to beg noting that 80 percent of the beggars in the Kingdom are non-Saudis.
Begging is illegal in the Kingdom but the large number of foreigners coming in through its borders for Haj and Umrah makes it difficult to keep a check on those over-staying their visits. This coupled with the lack of legal papers permitting any sort of work forces this category of visitors to eke out a living from beggary.