Welfare Dept: Beggars can 'earn' RM42 in just 15 minutes [NSTTV]

KUALA LUMPUR: In just 15 minutes, a beggar could easily receive RM42 in donations in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, turning the generous nature of the people into a lucrative opportunity for beggars.

For decades, Malaysia has been considered a 'treasure trove' for many foreigners who seize the opportunity to earn easy income by begging. They enter Malaysia as tourists using international passports and then turn to begging.

In an interview with Harian Metro's Kafe Ahad, Social Welfare Department (JKM) director-general Norazman Othman said the beggars would employ various tactics, including using babies to garner sympathy from the public to gain more money.

"Based on JKM's experience in handling beggar operations, there are a few beggars who use children or babies to garner sympathy from the public.

"Among them are cases where the children or babies are disabled, and there are also instances where beggars pretend to be visually or physically impaired or pretend to be patients using medical equipment such as urine bags, wound dressings on their legs or hands, and so on," he said.

Last week, it was reported that foreign syndicates who travel to Malaysia on tourist visas with valid international passports have resorted to 'renting children' from friends to beg in this country.

Norazman revealed that a total of 2,526 operations were conducted nationwide in the last five years to retrieve destitute persons on the streets, including beggars.

"Addressing the issue of begging requires action by various government enforcement agencies and not solely by the JKM, considering that Social Welfare Officers and JKM have limited authority under the Destitute Persons Act 1977.

"In addition to the Missing Persons Act 1977, there are several other acts in force to address the issue of begging, namely the Immigration Act 1959/1963, National Registration Act 1959, Mental Health Act 2001, Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, Minor Offences Act 1955, Poisons Act 1952, Drug Dependants (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act 1983, House to House and Street Collections Act 1947, Local Government Act 1976, and National Security Council directive No. 23: Policy and Mechanism for the Management of Refugees and Asylum Seekers," he said.

Norazman called on the community to collectively help in combating the issue of begging by refraining from giving donations to them, thus reducing begging activities.

The Social Welfare Department, he added, does not have specific statistics on the number of beggars recorded during Ramadan. Based on observations, beggars, regardless of nationality, tend to concentrate more at main mosques and shopping areas because the public is more open to giving alms on certain days or months in accordance with Islamic teachings, as giving to charity is highly encouraged especially on Fridays and during Ramadan.

However, the department continuously conducts advocacy programmes through the Begging Awareness and Prevention Campaign as a long-term strategy to raise awareness among the public, and the commitment of the community is needed to refrain from giving alms or contributions to beggars.

Through this campaign, it is hoped that the government's efforts to eradicate begging activities will be successful and thereby prevent it from proliferating.

Regular actions to pick up destitute individuals in crowded areas are also frequently carried out.

The public, Norazman advised, should channel their alms or donations to the appropriate channels such as welfare homes, registered volunteer welfare organisations, charity organisations, places of worship, and the National Welfare Foundation.

Based on the statistics from 'Action Taken in Cases of Destitute Persons' by type of operation and state (from 2019 to 2023), in 2019, a total of 2526 operations were conducted nationwide involving three types of operations, namely integrated, scheduled or periodic, and unscheduled or non-periodic.

Throughout 2020, 1547 operations were carried out, while in 2021, 1447 operations were conducted nationwide.

In 2022, 846 operations were carried out, while last year, 1182 operations were implemented nationwide involving all relevant operation categories.

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