What are the Punishments for Beggars and Unlicensed Charities in the UAE?

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The United Arab Emirates has strict laws against begging and fundraising through unlicensed charities, which have been introduced and amended to preserve the image of the UAE, fight begging and organized begging, prevent funds from risks of being exploited in financing terrorism, and protect the interest of the donors of funds.

Applicable Laws

Begging:

UAE recently issued Federal Decree Law No. 31 of 2021 (UAE Penal Code) which now sets out the penalties and punishments for begging and organized begging. The UAE Penal Code abrogated and repealed the previous law on begging, Federal Law No. 9 of 2018.

Charities:

The UAE issued a new law called the Federal Law No. 3 of 2021 Concerning the Regulation of Donations (UAE Donations Law) which regulates all entities which wish to collect or provide donations in the UAE.

What Does the Law Say?

The UAE Penal Code criminalizes begging and any person who is found begging is punishable with imprisonment and fine. Further, any person who is involved in organized begging and who manages such organized begging will be punishable with imprisonment and fines.

The relevant articles of the UAE Penal Code, which set out the penalties for begging and organized begging are as follows.

Article 475

Any person who commits the crime of begging by imploring others to grant a pecuniary or an in-kind benefit, in any manner or way, shall be liable to a jail sentence for a period not exceeding three (3) months and a fine not less than AED five thousand (5,000).

Shall be considered an aggravating circumstance if the crime of begging is committed in the following cases:

  1. If the beggar appears healthy or has an apparent source of living.
  2. If the beggar fakes injuries or permanent disabilities or pretends to provide a service to a third party or uses any other way of deception and fraud, with the purpose of influencing others to draw their sympathy.

Article 476

Any person who manages a criminal organised begging which is committed by an organised group of two or more persons, shall be liable to a jail sentence for a period not less than six (6) months and a fine not less than AED one hundred thousand (100,000).

The same penalty shall be imposed against any person who recruits persons into the country to work in criminal organized begging.

Article 477

Any person who participates in a criminal organised begging, shall be liable to a jail sentence for a period not exceeding three (3) months and a fine not less than AED five thousand (5,000) or either one of these two penalties. If the perpetrator of the criminal organised begging is the legal tutor, custodian, or guardian, or those entrusted with the upbringing or care for the beggar, or having direct authority over him, then such matter shall be an aggravating circumstance.

Cybercrime

In addition to the above, a new law called the Federal Decree Law No. 34 of 2021 (New Cybercrime Law) tackling cybercrime, rumors and fake news has been issued by the Government of UAE. The New Cybercrime Law came into force on and from 2 January 2022 and repealed the existing Federal Decree-Law No. 5 of 2012. Article 51 of the New Cybercrime Law sets out the punishment for engaging in begging through online mode and includes imprisonment for 3 months or fine of at least AED 10,000 or both.

Article 51 states as follows.

Everyone commits the crime of begging by using information technology methods by imploring or any form or mean shall be sentenced to detention for a period of not more than (3) three months and/or to pay fine of not less than (10,000) ten thousand Dirhams. Everyone uses the information technology methods in seeking subsidy from the federal or local government bodies or an official thereof in abusive way or counterfactually shall be subject to the same penalty.

For Charities:

Under the UAE Donations Law, fund raising activities is restricted to specific entities only. An entity who has obtained a specific permit from the authorities for undertaking fund raising activities is allowed to collect donations under Article 6/2. In addition to permitted entities, government approved charities and federal and local authorities (provided the relevant laws, resolutions or decrees confirm that these authorities can conduct such activities) are allowed to collect, receive and provide donations.

According to Article 6/1 of the UAE Donations Law, a natural person is not allowed to collect donations or carry out any fund-raising activity.

An entity which has received a permit from the competent authorities to collect donations must undertake fundraising through one of the licensed charities in the UAE.

Under Article 36, collecting donations without obtaining a permit will be punishable with imprisonment and / or payment of fine of up to AED 300,000. Similar punishments are also applicable if the funds of donations are used for purpose other than the purpose for which the donations were collected.

Conclusion

Begging and undertaking fundraising without a permit are crimes which are punishable by law in the UAE and any donations made without any verifying the authenticity and legality of the charitable organization should be strictly avoided.

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