While the holy month of Ramadhan is also the month of charity across the world, it also sees a surge in activities related to begging.
While begging may be not as rampant in the Sultanate of Oman as in many developing countries, one can come across those begging, even involving women and children, in public such as near mosques, some supermarkets, and parking lots.
Over the past two weeks, the police in Dhofar Governorate arrested 84 beggars of different nationalities at various places and took legal procedures against them.
While figures for 2022 are not available yet, over 1,500 beggars were arrested in 2018 and 2019 with the number dropping sharply in 2022 due to Covid-related restrictions.
It is also argued that foreigners who indulge in begging travel from abroad due to the difficult conditions in their countries.
“I have never come across people directly begging at traffic signals, but have seen some expatriates indulging in activities such as selling bottled water or tissues boxes, which is an indirect way of begging in the Sultanate of Oman. We are not sure whether they are just doing it out of desperation for livelihood or are part of the notorious begging industry. It is difficult to judge whether we are really helping someone to survive or encouraging an informal industry that could be related to human trafficking,” said Dana Ahmed, an Arab expatriate.
“While begging per se is not uncommon and reasons can be understandable, it should never be arranged because some anti-social elements can take advantage of the situation for their own interests. It also gives a wrong impression of our society, which is generally quite well-off,” said Asma, who has seen people selling bottled water at a busy traffic intersection.
The Ministry of Social Development has urged citizens and residents to donate or help the needy via accredited charitable organisations or the donation portal.
“Support the fight against beggary,” the ministry said. Article 44 of the Child Law issued in 2014 says that it is prohibited to exploit a child or deliver him or her to a third party for purposes of begging. “Shall be considered as an act of begging any solicitation of alms or charity from others, any peddling, any performance or any other similar activities that are per se inadequate to serve as a livelihood.” Article 297 of the Omani Penal Code imposes a prison term of not less than a month, not exceeding a year, and a fine of not less than RO50 and not more than RO100 on begging.” Any begging activity can be reported on 1100.
The Ministry of Social Development’s decision 21/2011 prohibits any person to engage in begging on public roads, or public places, begging for charity or charity from others, or offer a frivolous merchandise, showing games, or other business that does not make a serious resource to live by itself.
Teams shall be formed in the governorates and states to combat beggary in cooperation with the Royal Oman Police (ROP), the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MoCIIP), and the local municipality.
The teams shall carry out periodic and regular inspection campaigns to apprehend the beggars and take necessary measures.