Muscat: Oman’s Ministry of Social Development said people who are caught begging will be treated fairly and humanely, so that those who are in dire need of assistance can be helped.
Although those who are found begging for unscrupulous reasons may face punishment or in case of beggars who are foreign nationals - jail time. A ministry official said that ministry teams work to find out whether people who are found begging do truly require aid. If they do, those who are facing financial difficulty can be referred to public social welfare systems to provide them assistance.
A ministry official from the Department of Social Development told Times of Oman that while people who are caught begging are punished according to the law, humane proceedings exist throughout the system.
The official said: “The Social Security Law says that anyone who is caught begging while already receiving social security payments from the ministry will be punished either with a fine or a short jail sentence. This is the legislative side. While administering the law, we catch the beggar and take him to the nearest police station.
“When we discover an Omani begging, we work to find out why this happened,” he added. “Through our databases, we may find out that the beggar is actually in a fix financially. It’s possible for us to then move his file other departments, where they will look into the possibility of bringing him under the umbrella of social security and help him. In other cases, he can also go out on bail if this is his first offence and he signs a declaration which says he will not repeat this offence.”
During the first half of 2019, the ‘anti-begging’ teams of the Ministry of Social Development found 1,071 beggars in Oman. Of those, 91 were Omanis and 980 were expats. 105 of the beggars were younger than 12-years-old. Of the 91 Omani beggars, 77 were released after signing a declaration stating they would not repeat the offence, and 15 were sent to the Royal Oman Police (ROP).
Of the 980 expat beggars, 729 were sent to the ROP for legal procedures, and 10 were sent to a joint inspection team, while 240 were set free after their sponsors signed a declaration on their behalf. However, as of April, sponsors of foreign workers became unable to protect those found begging.
The official from the Ministry of Social Development said that Oman’s system for dealing with begging was focused on ensure such offences were not repeated, while expats who beg can be sent out of the country.
“We work with our partners among the authorities to prevent repeat cases with a number of precautions, including (for non Omani beggars) to issue a legal sentence against the convicted person to deport them to their home country with no chance of returning back to Oman,” explained the official. “It is not possible for those people to sign a declaration to be let off the hook.”
Even with the goal of reducing and eliminating begging, the ministry and its officials try to never forget that beggars are people and should be treated with decency, with the official adding, “We choose the kinder path to deal with them, and we will not apprehend them unless we have seen them begging. We can’t simply receive a report and then take that as a reason to apprehend someone. If there is a report against a specific person, we will follow the case and investigate until we see them begging. After that, we approach them, using a gentle tone, and ask what they have been doing
“In some cases, people deny what they have been doing, or they might say that they have nothing and have been forced to beg. When we look through our databases, we can find out if that is true,” he added, but because people can’t find out for themselves if beggars really need the money, the ministry has said that people in Oman should direct their goodwill to official charities.
The official added: “It’s natural for your heart to go out to people who seem needy, and this occurs to us outside of work hours as well. However, there are accredited organisations that you can send donations to, and the ministry is constantly looking into cases of poor Omanis.
When children are found begging, they are most likely doing it with one of their parents. “We occasionally find children begging with their parents, but cases where the child is begging alone are quite rare, almost enough to be counted on one hand. When this happens, it is not an Omani child. I would advise people to be cautious. Not everyone who begs is poor. We’ve seen that many of their explanations fall flat, and the methods of some people give us the impression that they are part of organised groups.