Police have arrested six individuals who are accused of running a gang of deaf beggars, who were sent out to collect money in restaurants, weddings, malls and other public venues. The beggars – who really were deaf, apparently – brought their collections back to the heads of the gang, and were fed, clothed and sheltered by them. Many were held against their will, but were unable to leave because they could not communicate with Israelis and didn’t know how to contact the police.
The beggars were mostly of Eastern European origin, and were brought to Israel by members of the gang specifically to beg. The beggars entered Israel on tourist visas, and remained when their visas expired. The heads of the gang kept their passports and threatened to turn them into the authorities if they refused to continue their “jobs,” telling them that they could be subject to many years in prison.
The beggars were put up in communal apartments and sparsely fed. They were beaten, often badly, for violating the rules. Police, acting on a tip, discovered the gang’s whereabouts and arrested them. The victims were transferred to a shelter, and a decision as to what to do with them will be made in the coming days. The suspects in the gang were arrested and police are seeking an extension of their remand.
In a statement, police said that they considered the incident “very serious, and we find repugnant the notion of enslaving individuals and holding them against their will for monetary gain, especially considering that the victims were the targets of violence. We intend to impose the full force of the law against the suspects.”