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Our Correspondent

Anyone caught begging in the UAE will be fined AED5,000 and imprisoned for up to three months, the Public Prosecution has announced.

The UAE sees an increase in the number of beggars on the streets during the holy month of Ramadan, when charity and alms giving is foremost in the minds of the faithful. The law authorities are trying to crack down on beggars as begging is a crime in the UAE.

The Public Prosecution published an awareness video on social media highlighting the crimes of begging and organised begging, and punishments that will be given according to the law.

Punishments will be tougher if a beggar is healthy and has a source of income, has faked an injury or permanent impairment or used any other means to deceive people with the aim of obtaining benefits.

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Moreover, those operating professional gangs of beggars or recruiting people from outside the country to work as beggars can face imprisonment of over six months and a minimum fine of AED100,000.

Anyone recruiting people from outside the country for organised begging can be punished with the same penalty, and anyone participating in organised begging can be imprisoned for up to three months and will be fined AED5,000.

The Public Prosecution hopes that its Twitter campaign will help to improve the legal culture and raise public awareness, including the importance of not begging during the Holy Month.

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Organised gangs have been found to bring in beggars from countries in Asia, including other Arab nations.

Some beggars pretend to be street vendors plying wares, claiming they had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some beg online, to evade police crackdown.

Residents in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman have raised concerns about being accosted by beggars in residential and commercial areas, as well as at mosques.

Several beggars arrested by the Sharjah Police said they were brought into the UAE last November and instructed to ask for alms for six months. They were promised that they would return to their respective countries after gaining a lot of wealth. The gangs provided visas, air tickets and accommodation in lieu of 80 per cent of their daily earnings, the police said.

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On the first day of Ramadan this year, the Dubai Police arrested 12 beggars. Over the last three years, the Dubai Police have arrested 842 beggars, who are mostly of Arab origin.

Instead of giving alms, the public have been encouraged to donate to registered charities and non-profit organisations. Residents can also help the police eradicate the illegal practice by reporting beggars.