Beggars arrested during raids in Riyadh. Image Credit: Al Riyadh

Manama: More than 190 beggars have been arrested in raids conducted by the police in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The beggars, who included 50 children, were busted at their homes after the police monitored their moves and tracked them to the flats where they lived.

The anti-begging drive netted paraphernalia used in their trade, including bogus medical reports, empty medicine boxes, artificial limbs, torn clothes and clutches that were used by the beggars.

According to the police, the beggars, from different age groups and various nationalities, often operated at traffic lights where they approached car drivers and insisted on selling them roses, local daily Al Riyadh reported on Tuesday.

The arrests were part of a campaign launched by the police to put an end to the phenomenon of begging in the capital following a string of complaints by harassed drivers.

Senior police officers agreed that the arrests should be made at the location where the beggars lived after reports indicated that begging women and children tended to run away between moving vehicles whenever they saw police cars approaching, putting their lives at risk.

Undercover teams were formed to track beggars as they operated in specific places of the capital, mainly traffic lights at major junctions, mosques, markets, hospitals and public parks, and to identify the places where they lived.

The raids were conducted at around 2am, when all the beggars were home to rest.

Investigations revealed that the beggars were organized in shifts and that some worked from morning until early afternoon while others took over until midnight.

In late December, the Riyadh police said that it arrested 188 beggars during raids on 16 apartments and houses.

They included 22 children, 32 women and 52 men from Yemen, 20 Ethiopians, 22 Nigerians and 40 from other nationalities.

In its annual report, the police last week said they arrested 8,757 beggars throughout the year.

Around 70 per cent of those arrested were foreigners, mainly children and women, the police said.

Yemenis topped the list with 3,938 followed by Saudis with 2,260, Ethiopians with 1,096 and Nigerians with 710.

Around 300 beggars were Pakistanis and 220 Indians, the figures, published by Al Riyadh daily, showed.

Under a programme adopted by the Saudi authorities, foreign beggars are deported and Saudis are sent to a rehabilitation centre run by the social affairs ministry.