Nguyen Van Hai and his team are superheroes to the elderly and children who are forced to beg on the streets of Hanoi.
Nguyễn Văn Hải, head of the social security team of Đông Anh Social Support Centre in Hà Nội, has led the team to collect beggars and support police to burst begging rings for years. — Photo dantri.com.vn
Hải is the head of the social security team of Đông Anh Social Support Centre, which has been set up to collect beggars in the streets, return them home and support local police to burst begging rings in the city.
“You need to be tough and fearless to do this job as you are facing the risks of being attacked, spiritually terrorised or even threatened with violence to your loved ones if a beggar leader finds that his business has been messed up,” he told the online newspaper Dân Trí.
Hải said begging has become a career in Hà Nội.
There are few independent beggars in the capital, whereas many are controlled by professional gangs.
He said there are always gang members in the shadows watching their beggars and avoiding police. Many beggars, especially the elderly and children, are victims who were forced to work for the gangs, he said.
Hải said a beggar could earn between VNĐ1-2 million (US$43-86) per day but their earnings are handed over to the gang.
Due to the super-profitable earning, the gangs had many tactics, such as hiring other people to threaten his team, block them and threaten beggars if they left.
Hải said three among 13 members of the team have been exposed to HIV while catching criminals.
“The time of waiting for the results seemed to last for a decade,” he said. “Only when the doctors announced the HIV-negative results did we all feel relieved.”
Hải said due to a shortage of staff, the team had to work without days off to patrol around 200 kilometres, mainly travelling by motorbike.
Although facing many difficulties and dangers, Hải said the happiest moment was when they managed to rescue victims.
Hải recalled the day he rescued a 70-year-old beggar at Quán Sứ Street in Hoàn Kiếm District four years ago. The old man was taken to the centre and welcomed a lunar New Year with the staff.
Nguyễn Văn Lưu, director of the Centre for Social Protection No1 said a shortage of strict regulations has led to the difficulties in thoroughly moving beggars and homeless people off the streets.
Lưu said as regulated, the beggars and homeless only had to spend between one and four months to have their personal information verified. They would be released back to the society after their families and local government agencies were notified.
However, many of them were forced back on the streets to beg. Some were caught up to four times but still returned to their old lives.
Lưu warned that people should not give money to beggars and homeless as it would make the situation worse with the rapid increase of both the number of beggars and criminal begging gangs.
He suggested people inform the centre or local police if they find elderly people or children begging.
Đào Thị Lan Anh, lawyer of Hà Nội-based Thiên Đức Law Limited Company said the handling of heads of beggar gangs has remained loose.
Violators are only dealt with by fines and there are no provisions in the Criminal Code.
As stipulated, those who coerces elderly persons to work or do things against the law will be fined from VNĐ5-10 million (US$215-430).
The fines of between from VNĐ10-15 million will be given to those who are found to mistreat or take advantage of children for self-seeking purposes.
“The amount of administrative sanctions is too loose as the fines were too little compared to the profit they collect daily”, she said.
The city’s Department of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs estimates that nearly 570 beggars and homeless people were collected by social centres in the first nine months of last year. — VNS