Foreign beggars: Grant them access to employment, education as means to bolster Malaysia's economy - Expert

27 Mar 2024 09:47am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

SHAH ALAM – Foreign beggars should be granted access to employment and education as a means to bolster Malaysia's economy, says human rights expert.

Tenaganita executive director Glorene Amala Das said allowing foreign beggars to work and go to school in the country would foster a sense of equality and support for them.

She said providing such support would not only improve their lives but also ease the burden on Malaysians.

This, she said would also further develop the community in such a way that even the least fortunate Malaysians get to contribute to the economy and their personal development.

"How do we make their lives easier? We should allow them to go to work and school and through this kind of support, they can contribute to the economy.

"We have seen them (beggars) everywhere, at places like 7e, KK Mart, 99 Speedmart and many other spots that seem to give them more "income" and I have seen this personally, too.

"(By granting them access to employment and education) we will see lesser of them resorting to begging or begging with babies on their laps.," she told Sinar Daily.

Highlighting the prevalence of foreign beggars during Ramadan, Glorene said the issue did not only exist during Ramadan, but it has been ongoing for decades.

Related Articles:

She also expressed uncertainty about whether people resorted to begging as a consistent source of "income" or if they were simply seeking donations intermittently.

"I'm more bothered by the fact that they are not getting access to work and school for the children. These aspects deserve greater consideration when discussing issues related to beggars.

"We should make their lives easier by giving them the right to work and the right to education, which will finally balance the sense of equality in the country," she said.

Echoing Glorene's sentiments, non-governmental organisation North-South Initiative executive director Adrian Pereira said the issue should be magnified to understand its seriousness, including the shift in the language used to describe individuals in need in Malaysia.

He suggested that the term "beggar" should be replaced with "destitute people" or "livelihood rights seekers" to avoid demeaning those seeking assistance.

"We should call them destitute people or livelihood rights seekers instead.

"Foreigners mostly come here to work and open businesses to support their families," he said when contacted.

He explained that while the rise in the number of foreigners might be wrongly perceived as straining the economy, their intention was to contribute positively to the economy by working.

This, he said would not only help their families but also benefit the country, rather relying on begging as a means of livelihood.

Citing 2008 British drama film Slumdog Millionaire which is a loose adaptation of an Indian novel entitled Q & A (2005), Pereira said the kind of situation in the movie might occur in Malaysia too, where people took advantage of their poor situation, which will eventually affect others.

"Some people are desperate and they might just come out of unemployment and end up completely penniless and homeless, which led them to look for earnings by asking for donations on the streets.

"What matters is whether they receive social protection to safeguard their rights, particularly for migrants and other groups who are recognised but not as privileged as locals," he said.

He also said there were government policies that could help migrants get compensation.

For example, the International Labour Organisation has recently included an initiative to protect migrants' wages in such a way that they get paid properly and equally through the ability to claim a wage, among others, he said.

Pereira also said resorting to begging on the streets was undignified and should not be the last option for anyone experiencing hardship.

He also highlighted the possibility of a suspicious aspect surrounding the growing population of destitute individuals, suggesting they may be linked to syndicates.

Despite expressing frustration about the increasing number of people in need, he said pretending to be a "beggar" also warrants public concern and required further investigation to determine whether the act was ethical or not.

"Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri and other relevant agencies should investigate to find out if these people are really beggars or involved in syndicates, but this is not to tarnish the view towards those who are really in need.

"We can help the truly needy people, such as migrant workers. There are dedicated embassies and charitable individuals ready to offer support. However, begging should not be advertised," he said.

It was recently reported that the number of beggars seemed to grow during the holy month.

According to a survey conducted by Sinar around the Klang Valley, most of the beggars were among the Rohingyas, who usually brought children as a way to gain sympathy from the community.

It was reported that observations also found that there were a group of beggars involving Indonesians who masked as tissue sellers.

A survey on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman found that some of them were without arms but aggressively approached people to ask for money and sell tissues at eateries.

Meanwhile, in Chow Kit, it was seen that the average beggar at the area could afford to live comfortably since they were seen to have luxurious conveniences such as a mobile phone.

Previously, it was reported that Nancy said the generosity of Malaysians was the main reason for the increase in foreign beggars in some major cities in the country during Ramadan and they even consider Malaysia as a foundation for their upcoming blessings.

She said various efforts had been made, but the problem persisted since many foreigners never stopped entering the country to become beggars.

Meanwhile, Welfare Department’s statistics showed a total of 380 foreign beggars were arrested in the capital from January to August last year, compared to only 98 in 2022.