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How should we treat beggars?

Charlotte Attwood | 16:33 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

In an effort to sanitise the Nigerian city of Lagos, the state government is returning all beggars on the streets to their states of origin. Is it right to ban begging?

They say they have already removed at least 3,000 beggars in the last year but have now upped the commitment and banned giving alms to beggars as well. Violators will face two year imprisonment without the option of paying a fine. Do you give to beggars?

Senegal attempted a similar project last year but the number of beggars on the streets of Dakar remains high. Is this really the best way to deal with beggars? What else should be done?

If you would like to debate this topic LIVE on air on Thursday  26 May at 1600 GMT, please include a telephone number. It will not be published.




  • Comment number 1.

    This is very sensitive issue.The picture displayed makes it more emotional and sympathetic.I used to give beggars money a lot until one day when I was walking around the Central Business District of Accra with a friend and I stretched my hand to give out money and my friend pulled my hand back. I asked her why doing that publicly and she told me some of them have been cursed by their family members that is why they are on the street so if you give them money you will end up being a pauper. I stood quitely and asked another lady who was passing by without giving anymoney to the beggar and she also gave a similar reason.
    But personally, it si not easy to bypass a beggar without deposting something.It makes you feel like not been passionate and morally, you think you have done something wrong.
    I believe strongly that, such people families has to be traced so that something positive can be done about it especially the beggars who are physically challenged.
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 2.

    What happened to Human rights? "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights...and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." Are beggars less human? More so, everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
    Why violate the rights of beggars. Any why should I be punished if I choose to give.(freedom of choice ) I prefer a beggar than a thief that snatch wallet on the streets. Do not violate our rights please!!
    Akuakem, Cameroon

  • Comment number 3.

    I was walking with a friend on one Friday evening along Siaka Stevens Street in Freetown,a beggar approached me and i gave her a thousand Leones.The friend i was walking with asked me,"Do you know beggars earn more than government employees"? Street begging is a menance that African leaders must fight had to eradicate;however some beggars are not supposed to be beggars.Pablo Bee,Houston-Texas,
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Eviction of beggars from the streets is a very tricky undertaking indeed. Facts:
    1. Begging is not sustainable and these people are an eyeshore and deserve not to be in the streets
    2. If evicted without an alternative, the concerned government would shoulder the blame on ethical grounds because it has failed in its mandate to clothe, feed and house its people.
    3. If the government decides to set up a relief fund to assist the beggars, this would encourage laziness as many would prefer free food to working. This is also not sustainable
    4. Save for the disabled ones, Most of these beggars are people who can seek menial jobs to earn a living. They are also smart thieves and this is why if you drop to them a note or high-denomination coin in there bowl, they retrieve it and hide it in the pocket and pretend to the next sympathizer that they only have one to two worthless coins in their bowl.

    Consequently, governments should outlaw begging and trace the family background of those found doing it. The families must be held responsible and a fine imposed on them for allowing one of their own to embarass the country. However, the non-disabled beggars should be rounded up and whipped severally in public and told to seek menial jobs to earn a living.

  • Comment number 6.

    In my background, Yorubaland of Nigeria, begging was not acceptable; it was thought to be embarrassing to have a begging relation. Rather what we did was to keep such less privileged ones away from prying eyes and jointly take care of them while the affected was encouraged to be more and more less dependent. However these days, decorum has been jettisoned and even able bodied persons in the community now disguise or pretend to need others help on the streets. It is then difficult to know a genuinely disabled, self-made destitute, or someone who was a victim of one form disaster or the other. One afternoon, I was passing bye and a destitute approached for alms and when I responded to my dismay, he rejected my offer on grounds that what I gave was not commensurate with his status. Taken aback, I asked him and he said, 'Next time you should know how much befits me' So, how else could I have treated him.
    In my opinion, religious practices admonishes us to to give out to help others but considering what obtains today, governments should as part of social services ensure that beggars are taken away from the streets.

  • Comment number 7.

    As emotional as this sound and looks, it is reasonable to remove all beggers on the road because they are not only endangering their lives, but also the lives of others (both passangers and drivers), however some of these beggers are able bodied men who can find alternative way of livelihood but simply choose not to do so.
    I will advocate that government should build a place or create an agency or partner with private organisations to coordinate the donation by general public to these beggers, that is let all beggers be housed in a given locations in the state and have people come there to make there donations for their upkeep.

  • Comment number 8.

    I used to give to a regular begger in town until one day one of my friends was a looking for a house and responded to an advert for a vacant house. We called the number and the landlord made an appointment for 7 pm in the evening because she was at 'work'. We turned up for the appoitnment only to find that our regular street beggar was actually the landlord. We felt so cheated! A decent house with all the utilities asking for an equivalent of almost 250 Pounds per month as rental. I kept thinking the beggar could have used our pennies to build this house because the rental itself was more than enough to sustain her. We declined to rent the house on moral grounds, it did not feel alright. So not all 'beggars' are actual beggars! if we put systems in place maybe we could flush out cheaters and remain with very few.

  • Comment number 9.

    this is indeed a very sensitive issue. there are both positives and negatives to the situation. if the Governments of these countries are just removing these people from the streets and taking them to their homes without providing them with something to do to generate some sort of income then it is wrong.

  • Comment number 10.

    The issue of beggars can not be eradicated unless a through research is undertaken to understand why vulnerable people leave the rural areas and migrate to urban centres.Did the Senegalese Government carry that research?
    This issue needs to be explored thoroughly,as there are genuine vulnerable person who can not be supported in rural areas as the community in which they live is submerged in abject poverty.Though it has become evident that people take advantage of the vulnerable relatives or family members to beg.
    I have the following suggested solutions to the problem of beggars:
    1. A research be undertaken by academic institutions and ministries of Social welfare on why begging is done and why they move to urban areas.

    2. Poverty levels be reduced so that there is some excess that will trickle to the vulnerable.
    3.The role of religion in begging,as giving to the vulnerable is a form of worship.

    Ajaviga,Juba South Sudan
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 11.

    Although some things that befall man in life are due to curses brought on them by themselves but we shouldn't have the numbers of beggars on the streets of Africa in proportion to the wealth and resources Africa has if there is equitable distribution.

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 12.

    It is always easier to pin-point problems, but wiser to offer solution while pointing to problems. In this case, creating significantly more government run/funded homeless shelters, food banks, etc, where these disadvantaged groups can go to is the most feasible and most effective way to deal with this problem. Merely sending them back to their states of origins is pretty much moving the problem elsewhere not tackling the issue. More social and welfare policies need to be considered by this new government in such a poverty ridden country.

    Quebec, Canada

  • Comment number 13.

    There is nothing wrong with having compassion for our fellowman who maybe less fortunate. However, beggars are a nuisance to the society. You would find beggars on the streets of the richest to the poorest country. I heard some beggars
    in cities like Lagos, Nairobi or Accra will threatened to smear you with human feces if you don't give them something. Government and NGOs should help some these beggars get back on their feet while the rest of them should be institutionalized instead of being public nuisance.

  • Comment number 14.

    There must be many who beg who never wanted to be in that condition. As for giving, I once calculated that if I gave tips to parking lada every time I went downtown in Nairobi (a few times a week) it would have cost me fifty or a hundred dollars a year. Tips were half a shilling, or the equivalent of seven cents. Making it part of your budget can take the moral confusion out of it and give a little help to the poor

  • Comment number 15.

    Although these beggars are a great nuisance to the public sucking them from the streets without finding an alternative for them would bring no positive results. They would surely reappear on the street as the case in Accra, Ghana is.
    If they are no longer needed on the streets they should be given an alternative place to sell before they are sacked from the streets.
    If there is no buyer, there would be no need to sell. People who patronize such goods should be discouraged to buy goods from the streets. If this measure is successful, there would be no street hawker.

  • Comment number 16.

    This is good question, Those beggars need To be treated with respect because all this situation was created by our so call government, a government who just thinking about only they' are pocket a government no plan for the peoples.
    I think we should give them respect .

  • Comment number 17.

    For some beggars they have a misconstrue notion that their religion demand that of them; and, this is the notion held for many Muslims in northern Nigeria. Even though the religion enjoins its followers to give alms, it does not encourage people to depend on begging for their survival. I am a Muslim northern and of the view that begging must be stopped not only in Lagos but all over the country. But the government must also create opportunities for people to improve their livelihood as some will argue that poverty is a major contributory factor for the people to partake in this activity.

  • Comment number 18.

    This is a clear example to show how fail Nigeria as a state is. Who Nigeria shuld try to get rid of first? Between the (1)Arm rubbers(Thives), corrupt civle servants (corrupt ministers, directors, governors, senetors, chiefs, etc) Or (2) the poor beggers in the street that have been totally failed by their Oil producing gevernment, by stealing their own natural shares of the state OIL MONEY ?????

  • Comment number 19.

    I think a lot of these people on the streets could do a whole lot with their lives but choose to waste their potentials by begging. It seems like the easier way to go but I really don't think begging is easier than doing honourable work (especially on your psyche). Anyway, I think the government may do better to set up skills development centres to help these people (even the physically handicapped ones). That may be a better way than sending them back to their states of origin.

  • Comment number 20.

    Dear HYS,

    Vagrants are the result of decline pf family values. If we have many beggars on the street it is because the family has failed to teach lessons of hardwork and to instil the morality of honour. The government may clear them off the streets, but the Final Solution would be to trace each vagrant to his family and penalise the family for letting his child descend to such shame.

    Thank you

  • Comment number 21.

    if you are giving a beggar with an ill mind then please don't but if you are doing it genuinely go ahead and God will bless you . i hate people who give and then they complain that Africans are beggars, why do you given them then?? Africans are proud to be what they are and they don't need such help that comes with complaints. Therefore beggars should not be given money or food but they should be given jobs to work and get something through their sweat... instead of sponsoring someone tell them to dig and sell you their crops, tell them to make crafts and you buy them at higher prices. but don't just give just like that... and don't condemn them especially women and kids.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think beggars should be stoppped as some of them are used by certain people and some are good they does not want to go and work, and again it is dangerous to motorist as some beggars are thieves or criminals once you stop on the road and open the window in order to talk to them they quickly look around what is in the car if they can reach it, then then grab it and ran away or they hijack you, so governments must stop people begging on roads and make sure if are people who are cripple then they help them and those who are right be not allowed if found be charged, that will make world roads save and especially in South Africa where there are lot of such things happening.

  • Comment number 23.

    To the best of my knowledge, alms-giving encourages begging, and begging constitutes a societal nuissance. Inasmuch as the beggers will feel deprived of their lucrative source-of-livelihood, considering that they make more money on a daily basis than most civil servants, it becomes a matter of national dignity to get them off the streets. In most Nigerian cities, a good number of these beggers look physically fit therefore capable of productive economic engagements. The culprits are majorly from northern Nigeria where begging is encouraged through the 'almajiri' and 'bara' systems. Most beggers in all Nigerian cities, especially Lagos, are from the north. These beggers are exposed to all sorts of danger. They get run-over by commuters, killed by head-hunters, raped, exposed to health hazards and the list goes on. I believe state governments should come up with a similar initiative to that of the president, Mr Goodluck Jonathan, thereby setting up institutions for providing education, small scale loans and housing for these beggers. Nigeria has more than enough money to ensure this, and doing it entails empowering people and transforming liabilities to assets; a plus to the nation's economy!

  • Comment number 24.

    I am really shocked at the comments I have read so far, why do we Africans use words like destitute to describe our people and as someone mentioned they should be made to do "menial jobs".
    Governments in Africa do not create jobs, build social housing and offer their poorer citizens adequate and affordable or free healthcare, so the issue of moving beggars is just one of pleasing the richer population.

  • Comment number 25.

    Panhandlers are victims of social-economic situations in any society. Major/modern cities in the world have attempted to criminalize panhandling but such laws have either been selectively enforced or have been ignored completely. Moscow, New York and San Francisco …etc have similar laws but are only enforced in neighborhoods and near high-end hotels. Same problem exist in San Francisco where down town with million dollar jobs and properties are few blocks away from homeless shelter, shady motels and folks with blankets living on the streets. The solution to “begging” otherwise known as panhandling is to have a socioeconomic politics/strategy that involves the grass roots populations – Basic jobs, housing, retirements, some form of disability payment. The social security of the citizens is a reflection of the success of the government. In most/all of African countries, if a citizen is disabled, he/she is left at the mercy of the struggling family or ……… go to the streets and panhandle. In USA, Russia, United Kingdom and other developed countries, there is a concept called disability income – you receive a monthly life sustaining income from the government yet these countries have the same issues with panhandlings although not to the magnitude as it is in Africa/Nigeria. I have to note that I did not see panhandlers when I visited Finland. Conclusively, the problem starts from the “top”.

  • Comment number 26.

    The issue of beggars - I think investigating why beggars are on the streets in the first case should be done. There are many reasons that force some people onto the streets. The socio-economic environment has to be checked out as it breaks my heart to see people struggling to get by let alone beg on the streets. Their ultimate survival depends on the goodness of other people but that is not certainly a way to live without security of any kind. Yes it is good to get beggars off the streets but there has to be something better to offer them.

  • Comment number 27.

    many of them became beggars out of life depression episode. they just couldn't take it anymore and went to the streets. I think the best solution is to set up a temporary shelter, for them to clean themselves, have clean clothes. then they can find work. and in a month or two, help them find a room to rent. and when they get their paycheck, they will get a sense of independence and fulfillment.

    when they are in the streets, they have no idea how to begin to find work or appearing clean for ask for work.

  • Comment number 28.

    It's amazing how people think they're doing something good by giving money to beggars, especially in Nigeria. I believe it's misinterpretation of religious codes. In the first instance there's not much difference between an able-bodied beggar and a thief: both of them have sacrificed their dignity. We instantly explain this away as a side-effect of national poverty, but if that were true many people that struggled to make some good of their lives also have the right to sit on the streets and beg. As long as your brain is not impaired you have no right to beg. That's even a presumption to think begging is a right.
    The Lagos State government is not wrong for sending them back to their states of origins. I won't mention any states now, but you need to visit these states in Nigeria where beggars are mass-produced to know how justified a state like Lagos is for sending them back home. There you find a whole family of beggars. They marry from begging, and produce lots and lots of children who soon join the family business as soon as they start to walk.
    I contend that giving these individuals settlement money will only worsen the situation. The public should know that each kobo you give to a beggar makes him/her worse off. Instead of encouraging him/her to get up do something for himself/herself, by sustaining his/her begging career through your alms, you are actually (and effectively) permanently consigning him/her to the office of a beggar.

  • Comment number 29.

    In California, many highway offramps feature a beggar with a 'will work for food, god bless' sign. Some have wheelchairs and crutches as props. Some claim to be veterans, but the Veterans' Administration offers help for ex-military. And an awful lot of these "'Nam vets" were too young to have served in that conflict. A local expose in the paper revealed that these people are NOT homeless, they're part of a begging ring that picks them up and drops them off at their location. Many make more money begging than I do working, so samaritans beware.

    The plight of the abject poor in Africa is beyond the ken of America's poor. They have cars, cable tv, cell phones and large screen televisions. Since luxury items are a priority, these people wind up for free food at the crisis clinic my mother volunteers for.

    Don't have kids if you can't afford them. It isn't good for the children or the community. The way things are going, with the incredibly uncharitable, unChristian attitude of the Republican party here, it seems they are perfectly okay with people starving in the streets. Perhaps they expect attrition to weed them all out and, once they're gone, we can pass laws outlawing the state of "poor."

  • Comment number 30.

    Beggars should be treated as fairly as everyone else. We should not continue to give them food or money but to help them get back on their feet and find steady work.

  • Comment number 31.

    Begging is a very sensitive issue to discuss as it has many dimensions. So as the Beggars. The magnanimity required of the Leaders and the Society of a Country never reaches this community. Rehabilitating to integrate them to the society is one way but it has failed as many are habitual beggars. Some beggars are very rich. A survey had revealed that some have savings over US $ 100,000 in Bank accounts and yet they continue to beg. However the issue is much bigger than one could imagine as there are organized groups who thrive on beggars communities. The survey conducted had revealed the leaders of the Beggar Communities daily income is around US $ 1,000 - 2,000 a day. These leaders move in very expensive SUV's. The Sri Lankan authorities found the issue was uncontrollable. Suddenly a goon squad appeared and instilled fear in to them with horrified killings of the members on streets. Many were found dead with ONLY their heads smashed with concrete curb stone and now it is under control. Many would say it is Primitive. Yes agreed. But what is the alternative.

  • Comment number 32.

    As for me I feel the ministry of community & development has a very big role to play in this welfare.I don't give alms reasons being that at one time, we stopped to assist the young boys and my colleague had essential documents in parcel she had put down whilst getting the assitance which was in form of money. the other friends of the boy grab the documents and we realised after they have all gone. Giving alms is good but it has bad effects as well, it promotes stealing & sniffing bostic which makes them feel warm in times when its cold. In my country at one time they got all street kids and took them to Zambia National Service where they are taught various skills but you find some have mushroomed again. The only way to avoid this, is by not giving them then they will stop coming in the streets. mayulu,

  • Comment number 33.

    I imagine myself without a job and a family to feed and wonder if that small coin tip would give me the one meagre meal for the day...
    Begging must not be stopped by removing beggers from the streets.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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