The Ho Chi Minh City government has urged people not to give money to beggars even as it seeks to take them off streets and put them in shelters.

It has asked religious organisations to persuade their followers not to donate money either.

But first an attempt will be made to track down the families of beggars and homeless people and send them home. If it does not succeed, they will be sent to social centres starting on December 28.

The social centres have been ordered to accommodate them and provide education, vocational training, and jobs.

For beggars who are not Vietnamese nationals, the People's Committee has instructed related agencies to work with the Department of External Affairs to send them home.

Hua Ngoc Thuan, deputy chairman of the People's Committee, said the city has seen the number of beggars surge recently since many pretend to be disabled or have serious sicknesses to cheat people. It has ordered investigations to identify organisations and individuals who force people to beg.

Instructing district authorities to closely monitor this phenomenon, Thuan told them to set up a hotline for people to report to.

The People's Committee said since begging tarnishes the image of the city, the campaign is a vital social task.

Le Thi My Hien, director of the HCM City Open University's Centre for Applied Social Work, said it is a good policy to offer beggars a sustainable alternative to seeking alms.

"If we donate money to them, they will continue begging because they think it is very easy to earn money this way. Since I began doing social work, I have not given money to any beggar despite being moved by their situation sometimes."

Most beggars did not keep the money they get since the whole thing was organised by people who manage them, the lecturer at the university's Faculty of Sociology- Social Work-Southeast Asia Studies said.

The new policy should be complemented by having adequate shelters to accommodate the beggars, train and provide them with suitable jobs. Having adequate human resources is also important for the campaign's success, she added. The city has exhorted people to contact the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs at (08) 38292491 or 0903959929 during office hours and a 24-hour hotline at (08) 35533258 at the city's Social Support Centre.-VNA