Generally you would consider criminal activity to be something involving loss of financial or personal assets, sometimes though criminal activity results in exploitation and degradation. Something the authorities have noticed throughout Europe is an organized criminal syndicate that uses children to beg. It goes much deeper than this though; let’s take a look at the criminal workings of professional beggar.
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It a system of child trafficking and exploitation
In France, Germany, the U.K. and Europe in general, a syndicate of Romani people have been found to smuggle children over national borders (inhibiting the tracking of both ‘handler’ and child) and then use them to beg on the streets. Most of these individuals have been traced back to Bulgaria and Romania, and although the Romani are considered nomadic, generally consider their home. The gravity of undocumented travel though, is much more terrifying than you may think. An unprotected, cognitively immature child that begs on the streets (which is pressured to take as much money as possible to its ‘handler’ who might be a relative or not) can be easily coerced into exchanging sexual favors for money or items. These children, in most cases, are taken from their family homes in Bulgaria and Romania and sold to other families by traffickers who use forged documents to get them to Europe. As the children are documented under false names and birth locations, it is almost impossible to track down their parents or origins.
Children in danger
Due to the nature of being on the street, these children are often exposed to both verbal and physical violence, harassment and even sexual abuse. Unfortunately because many of the children’s handlers are not their relatives, these children are exposed to these same dangers when they are home. To further expand the level of human tragedy, most of these children receive little to no formal education but are instead put to the streets at ages as young as 4. The reason they use children at such tender ages is because in most countries in Europe the age that you can legally send someone to court is 14. If the police manage to apprehend them, they take what is assumed to be ill-gotten and send them on their way.
The children are exploited in other ways also
Many of the Roma that are recipients of trafficked children use them not only as a source (a very profitable source I should mention) of income, but also use them to fraudulently receive child benefits from the countries that they are visiting. In a case that revealed the scale of the problem, a Roma family had fraudulently received 800.000 British Pounds. The children are often trafficked to enable their handlers to be eligible for these benefits. Some ‘families’ of Roma have up to 14 children that are identified with fake and forged documentation.
Begging is usually associated with opportunistic crime
As I mentioned earlier in the article, these children are under immense pressure to make money for their handlers. In many cases, if the children do not perform to their ‘guardian’s’ expectations, they are beaten and abused. There is also an observable pattern of neglect that emerges from these cases. In the U.K. during a raid for weapons and stolen goods, five children were found sleeping on the floor, three needed urgent dental care and one child was found to have lesions consistent with cigarette burns.
Why does this phenomenon exist?
Some might argue that the Romani exploit the children for personal gain and wealth, but the truth might be much, much darker. The Roma people have been in the European Continent for close to 1500 years and within that time they have been subjected to a torrent of inhumane treatment. Slavery, forced sterilization, attempts at extermination and harsh prejudice has been the treatment the Roma have received since their establishment on the continent. Even in the countries that house the largest populations of Roma, Bulgaria and Romania, the Roma are segregated to the outskirts of townships and cities. In Pata Rat Roma people were displaced from their homes that they had lived in for generations to an area surrounding the town which is actually a landfill. The area is not only heavily permeated by the stench of garbage; it also completely lacks infrastructure and basic human necessities. That includes just one communal shower for over 300 people, no indoor plumbing (including toilets and baths obviously) and the children that leave the location to go to school are made fun of because by the time they get to the building they are covered in mud. In 2010 the French government went on a campaign to repatriate Romani that lived in France. Under the Presidency of Sarkozy, 10.000 were expelled in 2009, 8.300 in 2010 and after demolishing 51 Romani camps in July of 2010 1.230 more were sent away from the country. The countries that Romani visit not only refuse to allow them to assimilate, but also deny them the ability to be gainfully employed. Unfortunately, this results in these populations looking to less savory means of procuring their ‘daily bread’. This includes begging, trafficking, prostitution and fraud.
In other places in the world
The situation with beggars in Asia mirrors many of the practices of the Roma in Europe. Many crime rinks implement children to beg for them, taking all of the income and offering at most food and board. In China specifically, child beggars are used and overseen constantly during the day. Of course there is a much darker side to this situation. Some children are permanently disfigured or have limbs brutally amputated to create further sympathy. This cruel act is also pervasive in India, where families break or remove children’s limbs so they can beg more effectively. Finally, there are beggars that actually present themselves as disabled or destitute and actually make more money than an average laborer.
What can you say on the topic, being charitable is a beautiful human action of sympathy. At that moment when you give someone less fortunate something that you would otherwise squander, waste or throw away is close to godly. Don’t allow your cynicism to get the better of you; you might be overlooking someone that genuinely needs your help.