UAE residents reeling over alms seekers
By Samihah Zaman
Abu Dhabi: Ramadan brings with it a spirit of sharing and giving, but residents in the capital are once again complaining of those who try to take advantage of charitable intentions by posing as needy individuals.
While most individuals who beg for money share stories of personal tragedies to elicit sympathy for their cause, a number of persistent beggars are also dishing out insults when refused, residents added.
“I was walking home with my wife after prayers one evening and a young lady approached us and asked for money. We refused her simply because we are aware that the police do not encourage the practice,” Mohammad M, a 29-year-old engineer, told Gulf News.
“It was also quite late and we were in a hurry, so we walked away. But the woman then started calling us names in a very aggressive manner. I was shocked by this, especially as it is Ramadan and begging is not even legal in Abu Dhabi, to my knowledge,” he added.
Mohammad added that even half an hour later, he found the woman approaching people on the same stretch on Khalifa Street, which is close to a taxi stand and a popular restaurant.
Begging is considered illegal in the UAE. In Abu Dhabi, a campaign entitled ‘No to Begging’ was launched by the Police earlier this month to create awareness about the dangers of dealing with people who seek alms. In a statement sent at the time, the police warned that begging can often be a precursor to other crimes, including theft.
Instead of indulging beggars, the Abu Dhabi Police encouraged residents to make donations by means of authorised charities and organisations.
This year, most beggars appear to be approaching residents in the capital city’s business centre, including on Khalifa Street, Electra Street and Hamdan Street. Many alms-seekers also prefer to settle themselves near popular malls and restaurants.
One gentleman said a woman seeking donations on Electra Street had claimed to be a refugee from a neighbouring country, and had even followed him to his office.
“It is sometimes hard to tell if a person seeking alms is really in need. I recently met a man who appeared to be very sick, and looked like he was suffering from blindness. So I handed him some of the money I had on me,” a Filipino resident said.
He, however, said that it was possible the beggar had been an illegal immigrant.
“The man was speaking in a language I did not understand, so I could not make sure why he had found it necessary to beg.” the resident added.
Khalid Al Hammadi, a 35-year-old Emirati administrative assistant, agreed.
“I have been approached by many beggars over the years, and I usually refuse to listen to them. Once however, I offered a beggar some food and he had tears in his eyes. I then felt bad that I had not believed his story at first,” Al Hammadi said.
As Gulf News reported earlier, 23 beggars, including four women and a minor, were caught in the capital in the first five months of 2013. The majority of the offenders were aged between 18 and 35 years.
“The Abu Dhabi Police wants to rid society of those who abuse citizens’ and residents’ goodness of heart to collect money without effort. There is no place for beggars in our society and we have increased inspections in all areas of the city of Abu Dhabi to catch them,” Brigadier Maktoum Al Sharifi, director of the Capital Police Directorate, said earlier this month.