Are cleaners beggars?

Muna Al-Fuzai

The municipality announced that it will deport any cleaner working for a cleaning firm under contract with the municipality if he is caught begging and the company will be fined. Kuwait Municipality’s Director General Ahmad Al-Manfouhi said in a statement that “all companies working in all governorates were informed of these regulations.” According to the report, if a cleaner is found begging or acting contrary to public order, he will be punished and his company penalized.

Inspection campaigns will commence from this week, which includes joint teams from the Public Authority for Manpower, interior ministry and the commerce and industry ministry, in addition to the municipality. The official said “these measures were designed to reduce widespread begging by cleaners that affects Kuwait’s reputation.”
In June 2017, local newspapers published a statement from the municipality which reported that 33 cleaners had been caught begging in four areas after being monitored. According to the statement, their companies were fined for violating the terms of the contract.

Now, there is no doubt that the municipality sees these workers as employees of a company and getting paid, so begging and asking for money from people is legally prohibited because this employee is not entitled to ask money from passersby or act in a manner that suggests that he is asking for money. This is understood.

Personally, and this is my opinion, I have never come across a cleaning worker who came to me asking for money explicitly and directly. I do agree that some of them may suggest so by giving you a pitiful look, and thus you may feel that he needs a little money. But I have never seen a cleaner in my life who said to me in the face “I want money”. On the contrary, several women dressed in full black with their faces covered have approached me in parking lots and started talking about living in poverty and asked for money directly and openly. These women should be arrested and deported.

I know that some people have a lot of derision and contempt for these poor workers who work in very difficult conditions and unbearable climate in summer or winter with a meager income, but the streets will not be clean without them.

I don’t think there are many people who disagree that the cleaners are poor and that the workers are not considered beggars or entered the country with the intention of begging – but I wonder why no one looks at the subject from another angle and asks what prompts them to beg or behave in a way that suggests that they are begging or accept money from people?

For many years, there have been rumors about the exploitation by such companies of their workers, that salaries are not paid in full or regularly and that they live in difficult circumstances. But I haven’t seen extensive investigation campaigns to find the truth, and if there is exploitation by the companies. I hope the municipality will take such reports into account.

As for violating companies, I do not see how to punish the company as it may be an individual action of the worker and the company has no direct responsibility. But the head of the workers – who is usually of the same nationality as the workers – has a significant role in directing these workers, so if a worker is arrested while begging, the head worker must be investigated.

I have another question – what if a person willingly gives some money or food to these workers? Will they be prevented from accepting money or food out of caution and fear of punishment or deportation? There will always be kind and charitable people who will keep giving money and food to these workers. I believe it is time to look at the situation of workers from all aspects.

By Muna Al-Fuzai
Muna@kuwaittimes.net

This article was published on 22/09/2018