By Guyson Nanagayi – Dakar – At least 200 street beggars who were rounded up last week in Senegal’s capital Dakar , after the government banned begging in public, have been freed, while 39 foreigners are to be repatriated, a police source said on Friday.
“All the beggars who were arrested have been released. None of them were referred to the courts,” the source said, asking not to be named. “Almost 200 beggars of Senegalese nationality were freed on Sunday.
“The beggars of Malian nationality, numbering 30, were to be taken to the border by their embassy yesterday (Thursday) or today, at the same time as a Cameroonian woman who will return to her country by train via Mali.”
Eight other beggars from Guinea, picked up in police raids that started on August 27, were also turned over to their embassy for repatriation on Friday, the source added.
Quran masters on trial for child exploitation
However , the police also said that 30 children, pupils in Islamic schools – or “talibes” – have either been returned to their families this week or placed in care centres.
On September 8, a court will hand down its verdict in the trial of seven Quran masters – five Senegalese and two from Guinea-Bissau – who have been charged with exploiting children to beg and who face two years in prison.
The Senegalese police began operations to pick up beggars after the government on August 23 banned begging in all public places, except for the collection of alms outside places of worship.
Two years ago, the UN Children’s Fund estimated that there were 8 000 children running wild on the streets of Dakar.
In April, the New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced a situation in Senegal where the organisation found “tens of thousands of children forced into begging” and often “exploited and abused, allegedly in the name of religion”.