Feb 12, 2013

Brothels rorting student visas to secure Asian workers

A Sydney brothel imports sex workers by rorting the student visa program, charging them thousands for English courses they will never take. A special Crikey investigation has alerted Immigration Department officials.

Chris Seage — Tax consultant and former ATO audit manager

Chris Seage

Tax consultant and former ATO audit manager

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. Documents obtained by Crikey show Sam arranged for one of the prostitutes to be enrolled for an English course at Castle College in May 2012.

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4 thoughts on “Brothels rorting student visas to secure Asian workers

  1. Graham R

    EVERYONE is rorting Australia’s 457 visa program. EVERYONE.

  2. Rowan Sutherland

    did these girls actually want their cases dobbed into immigration?

  3. Lucy

    What a hideous situation. Even if these girls understand fully that they will be engaging in sex work before they leave their home countries, I doubt anyone would freely and willingly sign up for these kind of arduous hours and conditions. I am not sure if the immigration system is the best way to be detecting these abuses, but surely an increase in spot checks would be a start – at least provide some kind of deterrence. Cracking down on these faux education providers is surely another possibility – not just to detect visa contraventions for sex work purposes but also, more generally, to stop this exploitation both of our own immigration system and of the people who view it as a possible (albeit expensive) way in. But how could we change the legislation to remove these loopholes? Surely it is not fair to deny the right of appeal?

    By the way, excellent investigative work Crikey! Glad someone is paying attention to this stuff.

  4. JMNO

    This problem is a constant one for the Immigration Department and it has not just started (writing as someone who worked there some years ago). It has been going on for years. People traffickers/brothel owners and other opportunists find loopholes in migration law almost before it is drafted. A number of years ago, Asian women were brought in on tourist visas and their minders applied for refugee status on their behalf (the women didn’t know what visas had been applied for) because this gave them permission to work. By the time, the case had been decided and reviewed, the brothel/trafficker had recouped their cost and made a lot of money, not so the women.
    It is an ongoing problem with loopholes slowly being plugged after the event

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