New South Wales brothel owners are rorting Australia’s visa program and the Immigration Department is not doing enough to stop it.
A Crikey investigation has revealed women from Asian countries are being recruited to the NSW sex industry and forced to work long hours while on tourist visas. The pimps then charge the women $15,000 to enrol in English courses while at the same time applying to the Immigration Department for a student visa.
Many of the applications fail. Pimps then exploit loopholes in the visa program by appealing the decision, which allows the prostitutes to stay in Australia for a further two years.
In a case unfolding in the Sydney District Court, the owner of Sydney north shore brothel Diamonds 4 Ever is accused of trafficking six women into Australia to work as sex slaves. All were on student visas but it is alleged they were forced to work up to 20 hours a day to pay off a $5000 debt to the owner.
The court heard the pimp warned the prostitutes about what would happen if they said the wrong thing to Immigration officials about their working hours. The Diamonds website boasts: “Most of our ladies are available every day of the week.”
Four Hong Kong nationals — Crikey has confirmed their identities but will only use their working names of “Coco”, “Chanel”, “Cherry” and “Mickey” (pictured above) — arrived in Australia in April 2012 on travel visas. One of the prostitutes had previously been deported from Canada in March 2011 for working in an illegal brothel — surprisingly this was not picked up when she arrived in Sydney under the same name.
They were met by the brothel owner of three legal Sydney brothels in Blacktown and Sydney’s CBD. They were driven to the Blacktown establishment where they were required to commence work immediately. The women understood they would be working in the sex industry. Fake travel itineraries were provided by a Hong Kong travel agent but were discarded on arrival in Australia.
The pimp then put the women in touch with a “lawyer” known as “Sam”. But Crikey understands the man is an agent working to attract business to an English language school in Sydney’s west — the NSW Law Society confirms there is no record of the man having registered as a solicitor.
Sam charged each girl $15,000 to arrange an English course, which would allow them to hold a study visa. He told the women the application would fail but he would appeal the decision to allow them to stay in Australia for up to a further two years by using a loophole in the visa program.
Her application for a study visa was rejected and she appealed to the Migration Review Tribunal in July 2012. This allows her to stay in Australia for up to two years while the appeal process is heard.
Castle College principal Brendan Daly told Crikey he’s unaware of Sam and has no knowledge of any prostitutes enrolled at his college: “I checked the details you provided with our records and can confirm that the college does not have any dealings with the agent whose details you provided.” There is no suggestion Castle College or any other language school are involved in the scam.
Recent reports from the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute show an increase in the number of Asian women now working in the NSW sex industry. In 2011 Crikey reported the Korean government was so concerned with the influx of their nationals working in NSW brothels they threatened reprisals, including jail terms and cancellation of passports if they got caught. They even dispatched their special ambassador for overseas Koreans and consular affairs to Canberra to discuss the problem with senior staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and law enforcement officials.
The Immigration Department conducts ad hoc checks into brothels to establish any contravention of the visa program. But the view of some in the industry is there are not enough checks to keep pace with the rapid rise of trafficked women from Asia into the local industry, and a permanent presence is required to detect sex slavery conditions and rorting of the visa program. Crikey has provided full details of this case to the Immigration Department.
A brothel down the road from Diamonds, known as Aqua, says on its website it specialises in Korean prostitutes: “We specialise in a selection of young & sexy K-girls with new faces coming in all the time! Many new k-girls coming soon.”