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Social Development Ministry cautions public not to fall prey to street begging scams

Don’t give children ‘a reason to stay on streets’ — Anti-Vagrancy Department

By Maram Kayed - Nov 18,2020 - Last updated at Nov 18,2020

The number of children caught and transferred to social services since the beginning of this year has reached 1284, according to the Social Development Ministry (JT file photo)

AMMAN — Organised crime groups have found “innovative” ways of begging to stir the general public’s emotions, according to the Social Development Ministry.

By sending young children to gas stations, traffic lights and busy markets, organised crime groups have found new ways to evoke pity and trick people into giving them cash, according to the Head of the Anti-Vagrancy Department at the ministry Maher Kloub.

According to the department, young boys and girls hold empty bottles and ask citizens to fill it for them.

“The children recite stories of how they and their families are freezing to death, which is a very emotional scene and it drives people to help them,” said Mustafa Alawi, a field officer of the ministry.

“This is how they [organised crime groups] make children spend their days in the freezing cold. There are always new, more manipulative and harmful ways of abusing and exploiting these children,” Alawi added.

The number of children caught and transferred to social services since the beginning of this year has reached 1284, of whom 828 are males and 456 are females.

Combating child begging requires “dealing with the first victims, who are child labourers forced to beg,” Kloub said, noting that implementing rehabilitation programmes in the ministry’s centres alone “will not be sufficient as long as the child returns to the same environment”.

The department’s head noted that the anti-vagrancy campaign launched by the ministry last month, which is still ongoing, has a new rule, in which those who force children to work as beggars are transferred to administrative rulers and then are arrested or asked to sign judicial guarantees, depending on the case.

Alawi noted that from the beginning of the campaign until now, there has been a “significant decline in the number of beggars in Amman”.

The new law on preventing human trafficking, currently under review, provides “greater protection for children forced into begging, as it considers organised begging as a type of human trafficking crime. Criminalising this act is a form of protection for the children who are forced into begging.”

He added that “the law also targets those who force children to work as street vendors and other forms of forced labour such as picking up garbage”.

According to the amendments, all that falls within the definition of human trafficking “is dealt with as a felony, and the perpetrators are subject to severe punishments if the victim is a child under the age of 18, or is a female, an elderly person, or a person with disabilities.

Kloub pointed out that “it has proven useless to arrest children because they are only released to beg again, but in the new draft law, heavy penalties are imposed on those who force them to become beggars, which tightens the noose on abusers and child traffickers and helps us legally put them away”.

Kloub also stressed the importance of raising community awareness by asking the general public not to give any money to beggars, in the interest of the child.

“As long as the child brings back a financial return, his family and or the organised crime group behind them will continue to exploit them. Our message to the citizens is to protect these children by not giving them a reason to stay on the streets,” Kloub said.

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