Exploitation of Children in Aden by Criminal Gangs

The spread of begging amongst the absence of official treatments
Mohammed Jassar
December 25, 2023

Exploitation of Children in Aden by Criminal Gangs

The spread of begging amongst the absence of official treatments
Mohammed Jassar
December 25, 2023
Photo by: Hamza Mustafa

The city of Aden (southern Yemen) is witnessing a remarkable spread of the phenomenon of begging, coinciding with the emergence of many illegal practices and exploitation of children by organized gangs and networks to root this phenomenon, amid a complete absence of the role of the concerned government agencies and local authorities in dealing with this phenomenon and putting an end to these gangs.

Today, almost no street in Aden is devoid of beggars, especially children. The phenomenon of begging has become an essential part of the daily life of the city, which has hosted a large number of displaced people during the years of war and conflict in Yemen since 2015.

The phenomenon has expanded, accompanied by many abuses and violations to which children are exposed, threatening their dignity and exposing them to many risks that do not stop at the borders of sexual harassment. In conjunction with the phenomenon of begging, the phrase “I am hungry” spreads among begging children, which shockingly reflects the bitter reality in which they live.

The social worker, Mohammad Ahmed, spoke to Khuyut about the sweep of the phenomenon of begging in Aden: “It is very essential to deal with the phenomenon of begging in a comprehensive manner, as it is a phenomenon that results from two dimensions, human and economic aspects, and there are several factors for the spread of this phenomenon, which include: poverty and unemployment in light of difficult economic conditions suffered by the residents of the city of Aden, like other Yemeni cities and governorates, in addition to conflicts and political unrest, fragile social services, and the increasing numbers of displaced people from various governorates of the country.” He said.

“It is obvious that people who lack job opportunities and stable income find it difficult to secure their basic living needs, which forces them to resort to begging as a means of obtaining food and shelter.” He added.

Multiple causes and forms of exploitation

Aden has witnessed political and security conflicts and unrest in recent years, which have negatively affected social and economic stability in light of the continuation of these clashes and the deterioration of the security and economic conditions, which leads to exacerbation of poverty and the disintegration of the social structure. This is in addition to the deterioration of basic services, such as health care, education, and housing, which has doubled the difficulty of citizens’ lives and pushed them into the streets to beg in order to meet their basic needs.

It is necessary to pay attention to this phenomenon and try to comprehend and understand the motives and plans of these gangs that exploit children and operate within an illegal framework, and may be linked to other immoral activities, such as human trafficking or sexual exploitation.

The child, who introduced himself as "Kamal" and is no more than thirteen years old, told Khuyut that his family cannot provide the requirements for his studies. Therefore, there was no other way but to go out into the street along with three of his brothers to beg in several ways, including - as he notes - asking for money, wiping the windows of cars parked on street tours, or selling tissues.

As for the child Ibrahim (11 years old), he confirmed to Khuyut that he is displaced with his family to the city of Aden, where they live a difficult and miserable life, and are unable to provide their most basic daily food requirements, as we understood from his story and the conversations of many children scattered in the roundabouts and streets of the city, who gather with their families in front of restaurants and commercial stores in large numbers.

This situation, with the expansion of the phenomenon and the increase in the number of beggars, led, according to social worker Mohammad Ahmed, to a number of them organizing their tasks in a centralized or distributed manner. He noted that they work - as is observed in the practice of begging - in the form of groups and teams, working in an organized manner by moving in public places, such as the streets, Markets, gas stations, banks, and restaurants, and they use different methods to attract passersby to help them.

However, the most important and dangerous in this aspect, as Ahmed confirmed, is the spread of gangs that engage in begging, exploit children, and do not stop at the limits of forcing them to beg for themselves. Rather, there is also “sexual exploitation,” in light of the absence of the authorities and their inability to deter or punish these gangs and limiting these practices, whether security-wise, culturally or intellectually. 

A hazardous expansion of the phenomenon

In this context, the educator and social researcher, Hazem Ali Al-Sufyani, pointed out to “Khuyut” the importance of paying attention to this phenomenon, and trying to comprehend and understand the motives and plans of these gangs that exploit children, which operate in an illegal framework and may be linked to other immoral activities, such as human trafficking or... Sexual exploitation. Begging gangs are a complex social phenomenon, and pose a challenge to the authorities in combating this type of illegal practices.

Combating begging gangs - according to Al-Sufyani - requires joint efforts between local authorities and civil society, by enhancing public awareness and providing support to individuals who are exposed to exploitation in the streets for various reasons, and strengthening appropriate laws and penalties to combat this phenomenon. At the same time, society must collaborate with authorities to combat it and addressing the economic and social reasons that drive people to resort to begging as a means of survival.

Al-Sufyani also explained that begging has become a source of income for numerous individuals and families. There are also - and most importantly - gangs that exploit children and beggars, and represent a blatant violation of children’s rights, as they are exposed to many risks, such as exploitation in begging and verbal and sexual harassments.

In addition to the impact of begging on children on the psychological and educational level, with the expansion of the phenomenon of school dropout, children suffer from deprivation of basic education, as they are forced to remain on the streets and work, instead of joining school.

Therefore, there are prevalent demands on the relevant government agencies, civil society organizations and the local authority to address the causes of the expansion of this phenomenon, and to search for solutions to address it through multiple measures that include public awareness, social reforms, and providing the necessary support to begging children and their families in order to put an end for this phenomenon. 

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