Muscat: Twenty-five beggars have been arrested in the first two weeks of the Holy Month of Ramadan, according to the team tasked with finding and capturing them.
Despite repeated requests from the authorities that Omanis do not give money to beggars on the street, many flock to the capital city during Ramadan to prey on the good nature of people fasting.
Beggars keep asking for money in public places and neighbourhoods as a result of the sympathy shown by the public towards them, even after hundreds of calls made by the authorities asking people to avoid dealing with beggars.
Some find them really needy and others think of the punishments they have to face after being arrested and being deported to a country where the situation is already terrible.
The 25 arrests came during the first two weeks of Ramadan in the Muscat governorate, according to officials at the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD).
“In the Muscat area, eight beggars have been arrested since the beginning of Ramadan,” said Hamad Al Toobi, director of Social Development in Muscat atMoSD.
He added that the arrested beggars, including four males and four females belonged to different nationalities. On the other hand, 17 arrest cases were reported in the Seeb area.
“17 beggars were arrested in 26 raids that took place from the beginning of Ramadan till yesterday,” said Hamood Al Mandhari, director of Social Development in Seeb at MoSD. He explained that those arrested were from different nationalities.
The Times of Oman had published a story earlier on gangs of beggars descending on Muscat in the run up to Ramadan, with more being seen on the streets, using different ways to beg for money from the public, and making it harder for the police to arrest them while begging.
During Ramadan, a case of a woman knocking on the doors of citizens and residents was recorded. “We know that the public has sympathy sometimes with such people, but after all giving them money is not a solution for their tragedies,” said Al Toobi, adding that they always advise the public to avoid dealing with beggars.
“Although we always advise the public to avoid dealing with such people, there are several cases where people have to open their doors to those knocking for alms,” he added.
He added that in such cases, it’s better to guide such beggars and advise them to do anything, but beg. “Advise them and explain to them that the concerned authorities are making continuous efforts to combat begging. However, if they are not ready to listen, then it’s the time to contact the hotline for the beggary combating departments. Our hotline numbers are available on the website of the Ministry of Social Development and people can contact us at any time,” said Al Toobi.
Fawaz Al Farsi, a resident in Azaiba, said he had witnessed a similar case. “I heard the bell ringing and when I opened the door I saw a woman of an Arab nationality asking for financial help,” said Al Farsi. He added that he couldn’t say no to her as her condition was terrible.
“I went inside my house and took money from everyone in the family and gave it to that lady. I know it is wrong, but in the end she won’t do that unless she is really needy,” said Al Farsi, adding that such people have no home and its difficult to force them to fly back home.
Under Omani law, anyone found begging in public or private places shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than two months and not exceeding one year and a fine of not less than OMR50 and not more than OMR100, as per the official website of the Ministry of Social Development.
If the beggar is not Omani then he will also be expelled from the country. If the beggar repeats the crime, he will be sentenced to not less than six months and not exceeding two years.
Moreover, anyone using children or other help for begging shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than three months and not more than three years and a fine of not less than OMR50 and not more than OMR100.
The ministry’s data shows that the number of beggars arrested in 2014 was less, compared with 2015. 612 beggars were arrested in 2015, including 226 nationals and another 386 expats, while 835 were arrested in 2014.