Begging – the dark face of Kosovo’s capital

It is almost impossible for someone to pass on any street or square of Pristina and not encounter people who beg for money. Likewise, people who sit in cafes, often encounter individuals that come and ask for cents at their tables. Beggars may approach a table more than 5 times within half an hour. Every time a new face shows up. Worse than that, some of those beggars are violent. If you don’t give them anything, they insult, spit or sometimes even hit.

There are also those who have chosen another way to earn a living: selling small products, such as matches, chewing gum, etc., that are worth very little, but they approach to the customers sitting in cafes or restaurants. These too are persistent and won't leave the tables until someone gives them 20 or more cents.

Another form of begging is that applied by young people, sitting by the crossroads or traffic lights, cleaning the car shields when cars stop.

Finally, there are those who ask for alms to casual passers, tapping on their emotions. These can be seen in front of the National Library of Kosovo, or at the Rector of the University of Pristina “Hasan Prishtina”, on “Adem Jashari” square, and of course the very central “Nëna Terezë” square.

The most painful part is that most beggars are underage. Sometimes, one can see children younger than nine roaming the streets, and, if we consider the ambulatory sale as a job, this would be a fundamental breach of the Labour Law. Often, beggars are young mothers with babies in their arms. This is a terrible thing for a society that aims to be "normal", or a society which claims to protect human rights.

Despite the "type" or the origin of these cases, nothing relieves Kosovo institutions from liability, as they should be more focused on the alleviation of this phenomenon. This is because legal and organized societies should not consider the creation of rich classes of society as a value, but, rather, the creation of conditions that we will not allow any citizen to suffer from extreme poverty. They need to be measure by the respect for human rights.

Thus, the current situation in Kosovo, not only in the capital, but in most regional centers, merely proves how incapable is the state to cater to the poor groups - some kind of darker, ugly side of social policies.

The primary responsibility for this lies with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the social centers in municipalities, and the municipal leaders in all municipalities. But not even the government and the Parliament, whose members see these scenes everyday but take no action, can be considered free of responsibility.

The latter should collect information, analyze the situation, and create a realistic picture of needs.  Various data show that child beggars, a troublesome phenomenon, are increasing in number by 100 per year, excluding here those who sell cigarettes, captures the level of 100 children’s per year. This is prohibited by the Convention for the Protection of Children’s Rights - they should be in school, not walking the roads.  

But, obviously, Kosovo institutions are still fragile. Court and social work centers officials keep repeating every year the same phrase. They claim that they have stopped the beggars, they have identified them, and deported those who are not from Kosovo. However, they also claim that the latter keep coming back.

So, in this chaos, Kosovo institutions are being slow and unable to take successful measures to alleviate the situation. They, without exception, have become immune and seem to not even care to change the situation. Before there have been several attempts to find a solution for beggars, but recently there seems to be no plan at all in the horizon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Emine Klaiqi
                                                                                          Pristina, March 2015