Recent media has reported on Border Force raids on sex worker workplaces in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin and regional Northern Territory. At least thirteen workplaces were targeted, and it has been reported that in a Sydney raid 25 officers including four armed police entered the workplace.
As a results of these raids, two women have been sent to sent to detention centres for breach of visa conditions, one of the women’s workplaces will face a fine of up to $60,000 for allowing her to work, and fifteen people have been turned away at the border for suspected of visa-related crimes (though the link to the brothel raids was not made clear in the media statements). This comes after a media release from Border Force in July that two Japanese women were refused entry, had their visas cancelled, were detained and then deported after admitting they were visiting Australia for sex work.
The most effective way to address exploitation, including trafficking, is to strengthen labour rights for migrant workers, implement the full decriminalisation of sex work and create accessible migration pathways.
การทําให้งานให้บรกิ ารเปน ความผิดทางอาญา การเพง่ เล็ง การกักขงั การเนรเทศและการมุง่ สอดสอ่ งตรวจตรา กล่มุ ผู้ให้บรกิ ารท ี ถกู กีดกันทางกฎหมายและสงั คมนัน ไม่ สอดคล้องกับการลดทอนความเปน อาชญากรรมของ งานให้บรกิ าร
A report by Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women clearly explains that increased policing and surveillance negates the positive impacts of decriminalisation in Australia and that raids, like those reported in the media, force migrant sex workers underground.
The Scarlet Alliance Asian Migrant Sex Worker Advisory Group of Scarlet Alliance (AMSWAG) is made up of Asian background migrant sex workers. They are leaders in their community, representatives within the sex worker movement, and peer educators doing front-line health promotion and human rights defending. They meet regularly to further their agenda for Asian migrant sex workers in Australia. They had this to say about the recent raids:
To avoid this happening again, it’s necessary to let the workers who are exploited know how to navigate help. Multilingual peer education outreach teams at local sex worker organisations communicate to Asian migrant sex workers in their preferred languages to let them know they can ask for help even if they don’t speak English. Many workers don’t ask for help because they worry about discrimination. We wish the social environment would be more friendly to Asian migrant sex workers.
Detention and deportation is dehumanising and dangerous to our freedom of movement, and demonstrates gross disregard for our work and human rights. Deportation makes migrant workers more vulnerable to exploitation, not less.
Police and immigration raids on the workplaces of people who have been exploited or in unfair conditions has negative impacts: the raids push us underground and make our community hide away from authorities. This harms people who work in the sex industry. Do not raid us. Instead provide access to a fair visa program for workers from any industry to work in Australia, including sex workers.
Scarlet Alliance has spent more than two decades advocating and campaigning for improved access to visas for Asian migrant sex workers. Mish Pony, CEO of Scarlet Alliance, had this to say about the political atmosphere that has contributed to the recent increase in raids on Asian migrant sex workers workplaces:
The recent review of Australia’s Migration System recommends allowing greater migrant worker mobility, which would decrease the inherent risk of exploitation. It further recommends that migrant worker exploitation could be further reduced through more effective provision of information on workplace rights and conditions, introducing new migrants to relevant community support, networking opportunities, and pathways to legal remedies if necessary. Migrant sex workers working in sex worker organisations have a key role in providing this, yet are currently not funded to do this work despite a proven track record of successful peer education and community development.
The leaked Rapid Review Report into the Exploitation of Australia’s Visa System by Christine Nixon acknowledges that the risk of deportation creates a barrier to migrant sex workers reporting exploitation and crimes. Rather than addressing this barrier and promoting work rights, the report recommends prohibiting temporary migrants from sex work. If implemented, this recommendation would increase the potential for exploitation and trafficking. Sex workers on temporary visas would have no way to access support and legal remedies without the threat of deportation.
Scarlet Alliance calls on the Australian Government to properly fund peer migrant sex worker projects, and reject the proposed prohibition on temporary migrant sex workers, in order to strengthen the rights of migrant sex workers.