Coronavirus: Women arrested for begging after losing jobs in pandemic repatriated

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Three women who resorted to begging after falling on hard times during the Covid-19 pandemic have been repatriated thanks to police in Sharjah.

The women, two from Bangladesh and one from Ethiopia, were part-time house cleaners until the onset of the pandemic led to work drying up.

Unable to pay for their living expenses, they decided to beg on the streets of Sharjah.

All three were arrested by police.

Sharjah Police settled their fines, purchased their tickets and they underwent Covid-19 tests as part of their travel procedures

Brig Ahmad Shuhail

After spending months in prison awaiting trial, police made the decision to free the trio without charges and pay for their flights home.

The women, who will be flown to their home countries next week told The National how grateful they were to be given a fresh start.

The women could not be fully named in line with official guidance.

Tameesh, from Ethiopia, had absconded from the agency that brought her to the UAE three years ago.

“The first sponsor I worked for as a maid, sent me back to the recruitment agency because they believed I was too old for the job,” she said.

“Then for a whole year, I was sent to several other sponsors who all didn’t want me for the same reason,”

Then the 40-year-old mother of three earned a living by cleaning homes, and stayed in an apartment she shared with a number of other women.

But when the coronavirus hit, no families were asking for her services and she was left struggling for cash.

“I couldn’t pay rent, and one Friday I thought I beg. I was caught by police that same day,” she said.

She spent four months in detention before being informed she would face no charges.

Brig Ahmad Shuhail, director general of Sharjah punitive facilities, said police have made travel arrangements and organised Covid-19 testing for the three women. Reem Mohammed / The National
Brig Ahmad Shuhail, director general of Sharjah punitive facilities, said police have made travel arrangements and organised Covid-19 testing for the three women. Reem Mohammed / The National

She was overjoyed when told police would her they would cover her overstay fines and travel costs.

She is now looking forward to being reunited with family back home.

“I will finally see my daughters who must think I was dead because I haven’t been able to call them for the past four months,” she said.

Koremon, 60, came to the country four years ago and she too absconded from her sponsor and worked in part time cleaning.

“Because of coronavirus, I couldn’t work and make money so I couldn’t cover my living costs,” said the Bangladeshi citizen.

Koremon said she was diabetic and could not afford her medication, so went out begging but was arrested.

After two and a half months in prison, she was told she would be released.

“When police said they bought me a flight ticket, I was filled with joy because like my fellow inmates, I didn’t have cash to buy one,” she said.

Rasheeda, who also hails from Bangladesh, is to also return to her homeland.

“I don’t know my real age, my parents died when I was very young and I had no one to tell me when I was born,” she said.

She was also arrested for begging after people stopped calling her to come clean their homes due to the pandemic.

The decision to release the women and arrange for their return back home was made by Sharjah Police in celebration of the International Day of Older Persons.

“We focus on humanitarian initiatives in line with the country’s and Sharjah Police’s strategies,” said Brig Ahmad Shuhail, director-general of Sharjah Punitive and Rehabilitation Establishments.

Being the only three inmates detained for begging was another reason the force decided to act.

“Sharjah Police settled their fines, purchased their tickets and they underwent Covid-19 tests as part of their travel procedures next week,” said Brig Shuhail.

Life in a prison during a pandemic:

Prison staff monitor inmates from a control room at Dubai Central Prison. Reem Mohammed / The National

Staff are tasked with keeping hundreds of prisoners safe during the global virus outbreak. Reem Mohammed / The National

A prison staff officer sits behind glass at the main visitor reception. Reem Mohammed / The National

Two inmates play table tennis in the prison's recreation area. Reem Mohammed / The National

The large plant nursery in the prison compound is part of the recreation facilities. Reem Mohammed / The National

Gym equipment is sanitised between uses. Reem Mohammed / The National

Inmates read at the prison library. Reem Mohammed / The National

A new medical centre was constructed on the prison grounds to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Reem Mohammed / The National

The large facility is fully staffed with doctors and nurses, ensuring inmates do not have to leave the prison for treatment or tests. Reem Mohammed / The National

Staff at the eye clinic speak to an inmate. Reem Mohammed / The National

Nurses wheel medication between buildings in the prison compound. Reem Mohammed / The National

Bayan Kimamao, a nursing supervisor, gives The National a tour of the new clinic. Reem Mohammed / The National

Regular classes are held for inmates. Reem Mohammed / The National

An inmate speaks to his wife via a video call. Reem Mohammed / The National

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Updated: October 6, 2020 02:05 PM

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