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Authorities promote awareness, organised giving in fight against vagrancy

By Maria Weldali - Feb 12,2020 - Last updated at Feb 12,2020

AMMAN — Beggars seeking handouts have become a familiar sight in Jordan, as their numbers reached around 4,000 in 2019, with the Anti-Vagrancy Department urging the public to make use of the proper channels to provide for those in need.

Given the frequency with which citizens provide support to beggars and vagrants on the streets, it is “vital to understand the sub-context of vagrancy”, said Ashraf Khres, spokesperson for the Social Development Ministry.

“Raising citizens’ awareness of this widespread social phenomenon is among the ministry’s priorities, as they are key partners in eliminating homelessness,” he told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

He noted the plethora of locations receiving and distributing support to the needy and poor, including charitable organisations and places of worship.

The ministry also organises outreach events that aim to end all illicit means of acquiring money, the spokesperson expressed.

Vagrants are those who are able to work, but instead wander from place to place asking for handouts, Head of the Anti-Vagrancy Department Maher Kloub told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

“Beggars think of vagrancy as a profession, as it can provide easy money and eventually lead to making a startling fortune,” he said. 

The department’s role is to detain vagrants in cooperation with the Public Security Department and then refer them to the judiciary, Kloub said.

Anti-vagrancy laws include Article 389 of the Penal Code, the Jordanian Juvenile Law and the Child Protection Law, Kloub said.

In the event of a juvenile beggar being detained, social studies are conducted and they are subsequently referred to the juvenile court, through which a protection warrant is issued.

Then, they are transferred to centres operated by the ministry, where welfare services and a series of activities are provided, the department head said. 

As for adult beggars, they are referred to security centres and then the courts, with the possibility of jail terms ranging from one month to three years, in addition to penalties.

Kloub highlighted the emerging trend of vagrant bands, usually headed by the fathers of children who are distributed to different roadside locations to beg. 

According to data provided by the Anti-Vagrancy Department, nearly 300 beggars have been arrested in 2020 so far. 

Of these beggars, 76 per cent come from families who “resort to vagrancy as a profession”, according to the data.

Jordanian citizen Mariana Said noted that she finds it difficult to distinguish between people in need and those who are “just acting”.

What “breaks my heart the most”, she told The Jordan Times, is seeing beggars holding their babies and little boys and girls belonging to vulnerable segments controlled by “vagrant bands”. 

“We ask people not to give to vagrants, as this will encourage vagrancy. The department is always on high alert to cooperate with those reporting beggars,” said Kloub, noting that 29 control commissions operate across the Kingdoms’ 12 governorates.  

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