Knes­set panel aims to help Pales­tinian child beg­gars

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI

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.

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