Dubai: Ramazan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims and a month in which people are encouraged to feel solidarity with the poor and give alms to charity.
But, unfortunately, world appears to have got out that rich Dubai types are a soft touch during the Holy month because the UAE now sees a significant annual influx of beggars, specifically during Ramazan.
Begging is actually illegal in the UAE, and each year the police face an increasingly tough job as professionals fly in to take advantage of the Holy month, often coming in groups of up to 50 at a time and staying in hotels.
Mohammad Amjad, 41, is among scores of professional beggars who’ve air-dashed to the UAE from India and Pakistan to cash in on the generosity that typifies Ramadan, a month when the multi-million dirham begging industry goes into overdrive in the UAE.
Amjad’s trip hasn’t come cheap. The “opportunity” cost him Rs75,000 , paid in advance to an agent in his native India. Another seasonal beggar, Mustafa, 55, said he forked out Rs100,000 . His agent is based in Lahore, Pakistan.
Linked to large criminal syndicates, the agents not only arrange air tickets, visas and accommodation but, in some instances, even plan the itinerary of their “clients”, much like tour operators.
“They decide the spots where we are to be deployed and for how long. I’ve three days here, then somebody else will take my place,” says Amjad, who landed in the UAE from the Indian state of Bihar early this month.
Begging is outlawed in the UAE. Residents are repeatedly urged to discourage alms-seekers and report them to authorities. As many as 20 police patrols have been deployed in the city this Ramadan as part of Dubai Police’s annual anti-begging campaign. Similar campaigns have also been rolled out in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
They have been fairly effective. In Dubai 29 beggars including many women have been arrested since July 10 when Ramazan began. All of them had entered the UAE on visit visas.