Police have launched an investigation into a link between 'tissue begging' and organised gangs.

Many beggars are operating in organised groups, according to some rail staff.

According to reports, some appear to be coming to Britain from abroad for three-month stints, a practice that has come to be known as “tissue begging tourism”.

The beggars are operating daily across London and the southeast of England, from Bedfordshire to Sussex and Kent, according to a report in the Sunday Times (£).

Since January and February we have noticed a pretty significant escalation of reports in this activity. There’s no doubt that this is an organised activity . . . and it’s clearly profitable for people.

Superintendent Jenny Gilmer, of the British Transport Police

On parts of London's Underground platform announcements have recently been used to warn customers not to give any cash, because the beggars may be “part of an organised crime syndicate and the monies collected go to other illegal activities”.

Train companies and police believe the begging hotspots on the rail network are at Clapham Junction and East Croydon in south London.

Southern has introduced announcements on platforms and trains to alert passengers to the “organised” begging problem.

The operator deployed up to 30 rail enforcement officers to work with the BTP to crack down on tissue beggars.