By Saud Al-Shihri
THE menace of beggars has increased to the point that some them even threaten people who refuse to give them money with white weapons and violent body language. Their sphere of activity has spread so wide that we find them in most places in our cities including mosques, markets, traffic lights, parking lots and hospitals. They sometimes knock on doors of houses and enter buildings. They target easily accessible places that allow in visitors without ascertaining their identity.
A closer look at these beggars will show that most of them come from neighboring countries without any official documents to prove their identity. There is no need to mention that certain nationalities are particularly known for their involvement in beggary rackets. Some of the women beggars wear the abaya in the style of Gulf women in order to disguise themselves. Sometimes even male beggars wear abayas and one can imagine the magnitude of the threat posed by these anonymous people.
One of the studies conducted by the Ministry of Social Development indicates that the number of beggars has reached more than 20,000, including 2,000 Saudis. Some 10 percent Saudi beggars are children.
There are frequent reports and video clips that testify that not all beggars are poor and some of them are even super rich with huge amounts of wealth in cash and kind in their possession. They must have generated all these wealth from donations handed out by people who sympathize with them, but some of them are involved in suspicious activities to earn money, which makes them suspects in supporting terrorism.
We cannot fail to notice an important yet indirect method of begging, which is to provide people with a service in exchange for money. Perhaps the beggar is resorting to such service in his line of work.
Beggars are of two types — those who are poor and needy and those who are not, perhaps rich. The impoverished Saudi, for example, must have his needs fulfilled by the charity fund for fighting poverty.
We cannot ignore the role of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, which stated that begging is a social phenomenon that the security forces must deal with and it does not.
The ministry bears equal responsibility with the security forces in dealing with the menace. The status of a beggar should be studied socially prior to his or her arrest in the framework of documented field studies in search of a remedy that prevents people from begging. It is also necessary to examine the conditions after the person’s arrest and find out what could motivate him or her to get off the streets. Some 600 charities, including 70 women’s associations, in the country have no excuse in not playing such a role, which is weak and barely seen.
The rich beggar who cheat people out of their money must be dealt with through the security authorities. The anti-begging regulations must be implemented against this individual and I do not mind taking advantage of his capabilities in building the country either through encouragement or even by force, if necessary.
I wish that the Shoura Council rushed in the adoption of sanctions other than fines and imprisonment against beggars. Begging today is a phenomenon that distorts the beauty of the country.
As for non-Saudis, I believe that arresting and deporting them and barring them from coming back to the country is the effective means by which to stop them.
It is indeed a serious crime to beg without the need for it. Abusing people’s naive and humane nature and using women and children to beg are even bigger crimes. The situation is so grave that we can no longer risk waiting for easy solutions. It has become a security concern for citizens and such heinous behavior could bring ill-repute to the country’s ambitious Vision 2030.