Scarlet News:

Don’t divide our community

May 23, 2023 | News

Recommendation to barr migrant sex work in Australia sparks fresh fears for rights of migrant workers.

As International Whores Day approaches, sex worker advocates around the world are taking a stand against efforts to criminalise migrant sex workers. 

All are welcome to join a free online event hosted by the Scarlet Alliance Asian Migrant Sex Worker Advisory Group (AMSWAG) at 3pm AEST 2 June 2023.

According to media articles, an unreleased report on Australia’s migration system recommends barring temporary migrants from working in the sex industry.

This proposal would divide the sex worker community, giving residents’ full rights and throwing migrant sex workers under the bus.This would undermine decriminalisation and law reform efforts all over the country, and increase discrimination against migrant sex workers. The outright barring of migrant sex work in other jurisdictions has been found to be extremely harmful and would be a mistake for Australia to implement.


Member, AMSWAG

There have been big strides forward in industrial and human rights gained for sex workers in state and territory jurisdictions. We won’t allow any part of the sex worker community to be left behind and miss out on those gains.

Mish Pony

CEO, Scarlet Alliance

In Canada, a campaign to repeal similar laws is underway, led by the HIV Legal Network and Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform. They say that immigration regulations prohibiting migrant people from working in the sex industry has led to the detention and deportation of migrant sex workers.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, research by Dr Lynzi Armstrong, senior lecturer in Criminology has found that legislation barring temporary visa holders from doing sex work in New Zealand “renders migrant sex workers more vulnerable to experiencing exploitation and violence,” and that “the discriminatory policy that is currently in place puts migrant sex workers at risk.”

The ban of temporary migrant sex workers is in place in Canada and New Zealand and results in the detention and deportation of temporary migrants found to be sex workers. Such targeting and criminalisation does nothing to increase safety or the labour rights of migrant sex workers and is based on misinformed and racist assumptions.


Member, AMSWAG

Prevention of exploitation includes better access to visas, improved methods of migration, removing barriers to independent travel and migration, and providing information about the laws and rights in Australia. Laws and policies that criminalise aspects of sex work are ineffective in improving work conditions for migrant sex workers in Australia.

Mish Pony

CEO, Scarlet Alliance

A recent submission by Scarlet Alliance and state based peer sex worker organisations and projects detailed the elements of a rights-based framework that addresses the global drivers of trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences as an effective approach supported by both international and Australian human rights bodies.

Instead of banning migrant sex work, sex worker leaders are calling for: 

  • the provision of safe, non-discriminatory and accessible migration channels for all workers
  • access to industrial and workplace rights and protections through mechanisms such as Fair Work and jurisdictional tribunals
  • increased funding for multilingual migrant sex worker peer education and advocacy programs nationally and locally.

Unfortunately the proposal to ban migrants on temporary visas from engaging in sex work comes as no surprise to sex worker organisations in Australia. Former Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon conducted the inquiry without the input of migrant sex workers or sex worker organisations. In opposition to their stated aims of reducing exploitation and without the expertise of those with lived experience, this style of migration, border protection and anti-trafficking policy is intrinsically flawed and creates devastating outcomes for migrant sex workers.

Scarlet Alliance continues to seek a briefing meeting with the Minister, and will speak to this issue at the Attorney General’s Roundtable in Human Trafficking and Slavery later in the year.

Please join us at 3pm AEST on 2 June 2023 to celebrate International Sex Workers’ Day, hosted by the Scarlet Alliance Asian Migrant Sex Workers Advisory Group.