(MENAFN - Arab News) The Al-Birr Charity Society in Jeddah adopted a total of 537 children who were previously street beggars and sent them to a shelter this year.
Most of the children found begging in Jeddah are foreigners. They are found in streets, public squares, mosque courtyards and souks.
The society organized a number of cultural, social and sports programs with the aim of rehabilitating the children to lead normal lives.
The children are eventually sent to their respective countries or handed over to their relatives in the Kingdom.
"The society not only provides the begging children a shelter but strives to rehabilitate them besides teaching them the Holy Qur'an. It also encourages them to abandon begging and engage in honorable jobs," Secretary General of the society Waleed Bahamdan said.
"The society also strives to collaborate with security authorities to keep the children in the shelter until the formalities of their parents' deportation are completed," he said.
In the case of parents who are working in the Kingdom, the society keeps them until their documents are regularized.
The society also prepares a record of each child and keeps any money or other possessions they have in their care. The children are also provided with clothes, a medical check up and treatment if required. This was reported by Al-Watan daily.
The practice of forcing children to beg and hawk goods seemingly continues unabated in the Kingdom despite efforts by authorities to put an end to it.
Even though anti-beggary forces nab scores of beggars on a daily basis, there has been a rising tide of beggars in the city. The official figures supplied by the Ministry of Social Affairs and other authorities indicate that beggars are from other Arab countries as well as from some Muslim countries in Africa and Asia.
Saad Al-Shahrani, head of the Office to Combat Beggary in Jeddah, said that nearly 99 percent of beggars in Jeddah are non-Saudis while other estimates claim 80 percent of the beggars are non-Saudis.
No accurate statistical figures about the actual number of beggars in the Kingdom are available since the beggars are smuggled into the Kingdom from neighboring countries through land and sea routes. According to the figures released by the Ministry of Interior, 92,357 beggars including women and children were arrested in July and August last year.
According to a study undertaken by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Calls and Guidance, the major reasons for the spread of beggary are poverty, unemployment, acute financial problems, ineffective mechanisms to prevent begging, as well as the presence of gangs who supervise the lucrative begging business especially by exploiting children.