Beggars using social media to solicit alms
30 May 2017 - 0:09
By Mohammed Osman / The Peninsula
Beggars have begun using non-traditional approaches to draw pity, such as social media channels WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, said a senior Ministry of Interior official.
Beggars send text or a WhatsApp message and claim that they have a relative in critical condition or need help to have a surgery done. The messages are at times associated with pictures of patient or elderly to appeal to donors, said Captain Abdullah Saad Al Dawsari, Chairman of the Anti-begging Section at the Department of Search and Follow up of the MoI.
Some beggars also claim they need help to drill water wells or construct schools or hospital or say there is a needy family in an Islamic country where he belongs to or is living, Al Dawsari shared in the Twitter handle of the Ministry.
Al Dawsari said beggars in the street are mostly seen during Ramadan to exploit the generosity of people during the holy month.
Qatari law criminalises begging and expatriates caught in the act are referred to the court through the public prosecution, Al Dawsari said, adding that beggars visiting the country or found to have a tourist visa are deported.
For combating begging, the department has established a hotline operating round-the -clock (33618627 or 2347444) or Metrash2, to receive reports of begging. The patrolling police reach the spot quickly, Captain Al Dawsari said.
Officers from the competent authority monitor locations frequented by beggars, such as malls, mosques and markets.
People should send anyone who needs help to the nearest charity office. If one wants to help the needy, they can donate the amount to charity, which is an authorised entity, said Al Dawsari.
Central Municipal Council (CMC) Member Mubarak Fraish said begging takes place through the year but increases during Ramadan.
"Recently, a beggar came to our majlis asking for help. Everybody present took pity and helped him with cash," said Fraish. He added that beggars can be seen in public areas like malls, in front of mosques and in some streets like the Corniche. The CMC member said beggars were employing different ways like social media, sending messages and pictures while some of them knock on doors or visit people at gatherings.
“Personally, I do not see deportation or punishing beggars as a solution especially during the holy month of Ramadan. Therefore, there is a need for coordination between the authorities and different charities to study the cases before taking legal action,” Fraish said.
He suggested that the competent authority should transfer the case to a charity operating in the country to study the case. They (charity officials) can visit the homes of beggars to verify claims.
“But, it does not mean that the authorities concerned overlook monitoring. At the same time, prevention of begging and raising awareness among public on how to deal with such cases is needed.”
He said that if there were organised begging rackets through visit or tourist visas, the case should be studied; and such visas can even be controlled, especially during Ramadan, Fraish said.
For begging, the Qatari Penal Code stipulates imprisonment of not less than three months or sending the beggar to 'reformation institutes'. The same punishment applies to electronic begging.