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Panhandlers flock to U.A.E. for Ramadan begging season

August 14, 2012

Muslim beggars are migrating west from India to the United Arab Emirates to shake down wealthy Gulf residents this Ramadan.  No word on how the alms seekers are paying for their airfare, but it sounds like it’s worth the investment.

At first we wondered if bulk cash smuggling were taking place as money is moved out of Dubai and back into India without being declared, but from the article it appears as though hawala is the primary mechanism for the capital flight.  The article doesn’t mention it, but hawala is essentially illegal in India.  Yet regulators and law enforcement seem to let this activity continue with impunity.

Thanks to Puneet for sending this eyebrow-raising article in from the Times of India on Aug. 10:

Indians pack bags for Dubai ‘begging fest’ during Ramzan

CHENNAI: Scores of Indians are flying to Dubai on a ‘business opportunity’ during Ramzan. Not all of them return soon enough though, as the business of begging is an offence in the Gulf country.

The Dubai police have arrested 131 people, including 16 from Tamil Nadu, for begging during the holy month. Devout Muslims are generous with alms (zakat) during Ramzan, though seeking alms in public can land one in trouble.

Diplomatic sources said a lot of Asians head for Dubai during the season. A beggar from Pakistan was caught with 18,000 Dirhams (around 2.45 lakh) during a recent raid. According to the Dubai police, this is an annual organised operation. “Even employed people come from different countries to seek alms in Dubai during Ramzan,” said a source. “After paying for their return tickets and the short stay, they still carry a handsome amount back home.”

A youth employed in a media organization in Dubai boasted that he made a cool 1,200 Dirhams (16,200) in a matter of ten minutes by seeking arms on the road a few days ago.

Though details of Indians arrested for begging in Dubai were not known, sources said that all of them had Indian passports and visit visas valid for 45 days. Diplomatic sources said they were from Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam. Those from Tamil Nadu hailed from Vellore, Ramanathapuram and Tirunelveli districts.

Those arrested are produced before courts and serve a jail term of up to three months. “Those who come to beg here know the penalty. Many think it is worth taking the risk,” said an Indian diplomat in the Gulf.

This year a number of police officials, some of who are women, have fanned out to mosques and shopping malls in the emirate to nab the beggars. A Dubai visit visa for example can be obtained for 75,000 through an agent and this investment is much less compared to the kind of money one could make from begging. The money obtained by begging cannot be transferred to India through official banking channels. Hawala operators help solve this problem with a 24 x 7 service to move money from Dubai to Tamil Nadu.

This is the system used by illegal Indian labourers in the Gulf as they cannot open a bank account or send money through exchange houses as they do not have a valid passport or a residential visa.

Bahrain, Muscat and Qatar are also preferred begging destinations during Ramzan.

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One comment

  1. This year a number of police officials, some of who are women, have fanned out to mosques and shopping malls in the emirate to nab the beggars. A Dubai visit visa for example can be obtained for 75,000 through an agent and this investment is much less compared to the kind of money one could make from begging. The money obtained by begging cannot be transferred to India through official banking channels. Hawala operators help solve this problem with a 24 x 7 service to move money from Dubai to Tamil Nadu.



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