Begging is an offence in Singapore, and foreign beggars caught here are sent to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority for repatriation and blacklisting.
Last year, 71 beggars were investigated by the Ministry of Social and Family Development - more than the 53 in 2013 and 61 in 2012 but well below the peak of 133 beggars in 2010.
Between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of those investigated in the past five years were foreigners, but the ministry did not reveal their nationalities.
Checks by The Sunday Times found foreign beggars in Kampong Glam, Little India and Geylang Serai. They go from shop to shop asking for money, and also stand outside mosques.
There are also Singaporean beggars but far fewer than the foreigners, say shopkeepers and mosque staff. Those in the know say most are solo operators but suspect some are organised groups from Indonesia.
These groups recruit poor women from Batam to come here to beg. To get through Singapore immigration checks, the women are handed at least $500 to pass off as tourists.
Once they clear immigration, the money is returned to a Singaporean minder before the women are sent to different areas here to beg.
The women have to hand over a portion of their collection to the minder.
A spokesman for the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said mosque staff advise those begging within their compounds not to do so. Staff will also see how to offer social assistance.
Muis also advises its mosques and congregations not to give to beggars during Ramadan as this encourages such activity.
It said that those who want to help the needy can give to mosques, charities or family service centres whose social workers will provide aid to those who truly need it.