Children sit on a stoop in the Kurdish city of Sulaimani. Photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region— According to a new survey conducted by a Kurdish rights group around 424 children work as street beggars in Sulaimani, many of them forced by their parents to work as bread winners for their families.
Kurdistan Save the Children organization says the majority of the children, age 15 or below, come from refugee families from Syria or other war zones in the region.
“We have been trying to establish a centre for these child beggars and take them off the streets,” said Nawras Ahmed who runs the organisation.
Ahmed said the child beggars often come from displaced families with no social protection system available for them in the Kurdistan Region.
“There will be mobile units present in the streets and take the children to their families. And if they are again back in the streets, their parents will be held responsible and face criminal charges,” he added.
The Kurdistan Region’s ministry of social affairs says it will take legal action against child labor, as the number of underage workers has recently increased in larger cities, partly due to the influx of displaced families from Iraq and Syria.
The ministry warns that the decision would in particular apply to families who force their children into begging in the streets.
According to the ministry's reports around 1,700 children are believed to be working in Kurdish cities, often as street vendors or beggars, making them particularly vulnerable to abuse.
Nearly 1.8 million displaced Iraqis and refugees from Syria have fled to Kurdish controlled areas since early 2011. Many of them rely on their children's earnings for their basic needs.