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No child beggars

Nasik Swami
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

THE Social Welfare Ministry has declared zero-tolerance towards child begging in Fiji.

From now onwards, children found to be used by the parents to beg would be taken into State custody immediately.

The ministry has set up an interagency taskforce comprising the police and the Health and Local Government ministries to ensure children are not exploited by their families.

In an interview, Social Welfare permanent secretary Dr Josefa Koroivueta said families who used their children to beg for money would not be tolerated.

"Basically, if you're taking children to the streets to beg, it means you cannot look after them," he said.

"There is now zero tolerance on child begging. We have started to take children off the streets and place them in State care.

"We will not hesitate to do that again as we are serious about the care and protection of these children."

Dr Koroivueta said a recent ministry survey revealed there were about half a dozen children begging for money on Suva's streets.

"Children are very innocent and vulnerable. Some of the children are breastfeeding and some are below the age of two and have no knowledge of what's happening around them."

Dr Koroivueta said a profiling exercise revealed some beggars were dropped off in the morning to beg and picked up in the evening.

"It is sad to see that some of these are children and people living with disabilities who are used to gain public sympathy.

"These are stories which were not revealed in the past but when you go behind the scene you will be able to find out the real stories.

"We have all the facts about them, where they stay, the kind of houses they live in, the number of family members and even any medical conditions they are faced with."

Dr Koroivueta said the ministry also found that parents who use their children to beg were owners of rental facilities in towns and had tenants paying them rent.

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