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Abu Dhabi Police has announced plans to crack down on begging and new restrictions on trucks and buses for the holy month of Ramadan.
Under a community awareness initiative with the UAE Red Crescent Society, the emirate’s police force will encourage members of the public to report begging and intensify patrols in places where beggars are expected to be present.
Begging activity in the country typically increases during Ramadan, a time of year when Muslims are encouraged to perform charitable acts and help the needy.
In anticipation, the UAE’s Federal National Council backed a draft law last month punishing illegal beggars and criminal gangs.
The new punishments include a minimum prison sentence of six months and a fine of at least Dhs100,000 ($27,226) for those found to be operating begging gangs.
Individual beggars face up to three months in jail and at least a Dhs5,000 ($1,361) fine.
Director of the police’s criminal security department brigadier Mohammed Suhail Al-Rashdi said “beggars receive money by exploiting the sympathy of the members of the community”, according to state news agency WAM.
He also warned they create a negative impression of society and could be a public health hazard due to infectious diseases.
The spokesperson urged members of the public to ignore and report both physical begging and notes via social media and email.
He also encouraged people to donate to charities to ensure their contributions reach those truly in need.
Separately, Abu Dhabi Police has also announced a change in the working hours for trucks and buses carrying 50 people or more during the holy month to improve traffic flow.
Trucks will be prevented from using the emirate’s roads from 8:00am to 10:00am and 2:00pm to 4:00pm, coinciding with work hours for public and private sector staff.
Buses carrying 50 or more passengers will be prevented from operating from 8:00am to 10:00am.
Drivers have more generally been encouraged to adhere to traffic laws, reduce their speed and wear safety belts during the holy month.
Abu Dhabi’s traffic regulator also announced changed to paid parking and bus times for Ramadan earlier this week.
When will Ramadan begin?
The UAE’s moon sighting committee is set to meet after prayers this evening to determine the start of Ramadan.
Should the moon crescent be spotted on Tuesday, it will mean Wednesday is the first day of the holy month
This is because the Gulf countries decide the beginning of Ramadan based on the Islamic calendar, which is linked to the moon’s 29 and a half-day monthly cycle.
Islamic months can be 29 or 30 days based on the appearance of the moon crescent at night.
Oman was the first country in the Gulf to announce when it will mark the beginning of Ramadan.
The sultanate’s Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs said last Monday that the holy month would fall on Thursday, May 17 due to concerns the moon would not be visible nationwide on Tuesday evening next week.
Astronomers in Kuwait and Sharjah have also indicated May 17 will be the likely start date for the month of Ramadan.
In March, Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences said Ramadan would likely fall on May 17 with Eid Al Fitr, marking the end of the month, expected on June 15.