Knesset panel aims to help Palestinian child beggars
The Knesset Special Committee for the Rights of the Child called on Monday to coordinate with welfare personnel within the Palestinian Authority to resolve the issue of Palestinian child beggars in Israel.
Rada Hasisi from the Knesset Research and Information Center presented statistics to the committee which revealed that there are dozens of children aged five to 17 begging in the streets, the vast majority in Arab villages.
“They are mostly minors... who come through crossings or open areas, or children from East Jerusalem,” she said. “This is a growing phenomenon [especially] during the holidays and summer vacation.”
According to the report, these children, who often suffer from physical and sexual abuse, are often forced to beg by adult handlers on the streets for 11 hours per day.
Committee Chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu) said that this is a well-known issue and that a pilot program to address the phenomenon had been set up five years ago, though was never implemented due to a lack of coordination.
“There is a feeling that there has not been any significant step to eradicate the phenomenon ever since. We are talking about a lack of cooperation, and we need to contact our counterparts in the [Palestinian] Authority,” she said.
MK Masud Gnaim (Joint List), who initiated the report, said that every morning he sees the children beginning.
“It is work, not begging, it is taking advantage of babies and children. The root [of the problem] are the contractors, who drive them [to the streets], who earn, we need to catch and try the business owners,” he said.
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) called on the committee to utilize the Arab MKs to hold a roundtable meeting with the relevant authorities in the PA in Ramallah. “We will find a partner and it will lead to solutions,” he said.
Anat Dandakar, a representative of the Welfare Ministry said that the role of her office is to return the child beggars to their families and to protect them from harm until they are returned safely.
She said that the intended pilot program never came to fruition due to a “detachment with the Palestinian Authority, we have no one to coordinate the continuing care with.”
Shasha-Biton concluded the discussion and called to implement a pilot program to help the children and to try to schedule and coordinate with the PA for the benefit of the children.