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France: beggars take advantage of Syrian conflict

Syrian Refugees | 2018-10-05 18:25:00
France: beggars take advantage of Syrian conflict
(Zaman Al Wasl)- Almost every famous street or main metro station in the French capital, Paris contains beggars holding signs reading "A Syrian family in need of help", benefiting from the French people’s sympathy with the Syrian tragedy. That’s how they devoted themselves, individually and collectively to collecting a large sum of money out of this practice. 

Activist Anas al-Ayoubi told Zaman al-Wasl that these people are exploiting the Syrian situation in order to implement their goals consisting of collecting money, stressing that they distort the image of the Syrian people by lifting banners in its name. He asserts that begging does not need signs, neither does the beggar need to stop the passersby in the streets nor to shout loudly the words: “a Syrian family in need” in order to draw attention and gain sympathy. Doing that will only bring censure and disapproval from everyone and will deliver a negative image about the Syrian people.  

Al-Ayoubi assures that his opposition to this practice by giving two reasons, the first is that this practice is representative of the Syrian people in general, and the second is that European countries already provide the refugee with housing, free medicine and financial assistance to cover for food and transportation costs, and therefore the refugee does not in fact need begging; in addition to that, job opportunities are available to anyone interested, male or female. 

Eu-based Syrian activists say there are gangs directing these beggars especially after having been threatened with his life and the life of his daughter for taking an interest in them and following their case. Anyone who tries to discourage their begging practice and direct them to charity organizations gets insulted and beaten up. 

Al-Ayyubi used to go to their places of residence in order to guide them to the organizations and show them (the beggars) the means by which they can live with dignity; such as going to the French state institutions to seek refuge. Having the title of a refugee will give them government assistance and work permits, but as it turns out, most of them already have official papers in France Belgium, Germany and Italy. Begging is considered a professional job which helps them gain money.  

Social assistant Amin al-Assami, who works in one of the refugee associations in Paris, stressed that the majority of the beggars that claim to be Syrians have official residence papers and receive government aid. He denies the fact that these so called beggars are in need of anything because the French laws guarantee the rights of the unemployed before the worker, so as to ensure a dignified life that lacks nothing.

Many of them they do not even know where Syria is located, but they saw in the impersonation of the Syrian nationality a great benefit and an opportunity to earn money. As for the Syrians that are involved in this practice, the vast majority among them has comfortable accommodation and luxurious cars, according to al-Ayoubi.

"I carried a sign saying “The Syrians are not beggars" and I stood in front of the mosques, in the markets and in the metro stations to tell the world that we are people of dignity and respect and that we will not be called beggars.  I’ve received a great response from the French community who sided by me and began to explain the goals of my campaign to passersby, some of them even held signs in solidarity. 

Activists in refuge countries have complained the lack of interest among the Syrian Diaspora in France to fight this phenomenon, and called for the formation of associations that stand in the face of anyone who tries to distort the Syrian image, stressing the importance of solidarity and cooperation in the eradication all bad habits that could affect the reputation of the Syrians.

Al-Asami said that the majority of the French associations reached for the beggars and tried to embrace them, but they refused to respond and turned away their helping hand.  He also asserted that many representatives of the associations were beaten and insulted. This indicates that the decision to practice begging was premeditatedly taken and that there is no reason why it should stop, no matter what offers and temptations are presented. 

Al-Asami told Zaman al-Wasl that he phenomenon began in mid-2014, when 160 people settled in Saint-Ouen, north of Paris, and then they began to increase and spread in all regions. They are take turns to sit in vital and touristic areas such as stations: The main metro (Saint-Lazare), the Champs-Elysées and the markets where there is a lot of Arabs.

This phenomenon has receded a little after the French authorities threatened to take away the children in case they were seen with their parents begging. 

Al-Shami hopes that tough laws would be enacted to confront this phenomenon, because the most affected category by this phenomenon are the children.

He also called for the need to organize campaigns to raise awareness, pointing out that the campaign "Syrians are not beggars" has contributed a great deal to reducing the number of beggars who were deployed in most of the streets of Paris.

Zaman Al Wasl
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