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Scam Alert: Asian women snared in student visa scam

Women from Hong Kong and Thailand are being lured to Sydney brothels on student visas and forced to sell drugs and sex, reports The Sun-Herald. Perhaps the most damning claim in the report is that despite detailed evidence having been lodged with the DIBP more than a year ago, “nothing has been done to close the visa loophole on which the scam thrives”

The reckless exploitation of some Asian women has been uncovered by a recent Sun-Herald investigation. The paper reports that after arriving in Sydney on travel visas, dozens of women from Hong Kong and Thailand are being met by brothel managers who lodge study visa applications on their behalf. In some Sydney parlours, women are said to be forced to work up to 20 hours a day.

“During that time, the women are at the mercy of traffickers who restrict their freedom and force them to work around the clock as prostitutes. While some are aware they are arriving to work in the sex industry, many are oblivious to the fact. Sources on the periphery of the sex ring have testified that within months, an increasing number of workers are finding themselves broken, battered and hooked on crystal meth (ice), which, in some parlours, they are obliged to offer to clients,” the report states.

Commander of the NSW Police Sex Crimes squad, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, said: ''These are serious crimes and we work closely with our federal counterparts to ensure we tackle them not only in Australia, but offshore. The difficulty is in trying to get victimised witnesses to come forward.''

According to the report, a consultancy firm, Brothel Busters provided a paper trail to DIBP that demonstrated exactly how sex traffickers were utilising the student visa system. What was of particular concern was that most of these women 'can't speak a word of English' and yet could lodge student visa applications and stay through to the finalisation of the appeals process which could take 2 years.

A DIBP spokesperson indicated that DIBP can’t do anything about the matter and will have leave it to the police to deal with the problem, ''Overhauling the student visa system would not prevent unscrupulous individuals from seeking to use this or other visa programs to profit from trafficking or trafficking-like activities.'’ he said.

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  • Liana - Allan
    Liana - Allan Monday, 31 March 2014

    What exact powers do DIBP investigations branch actually have to resolve issues reported to them? I will go and have a look and check it out. It seems a lot of stuff reported to the Immigration Dob-In-Line would be better placed being reported to the police. I really wonder what the limits of their power are and whether the DIBP is holding out that it can help /protect people who provide evidence to them, when in fact it has no or limited power to do so. I will go and do some fact finding on this one. There is no point people ringing the dob-in-line if the only effect is going to be the effect on a person's visa status.

  • Guest
    Bea Leoncini Monday, 31 March 2014

    But the Dob-in-line is exactly for that, Liana, to dob in a person or groups of persons who are not doing the right thing and have their visas investigaged/cancelled or unregistered migration agents picked up. apart from that, I don't believe that it can do anything else. - it's a bit like the Centrelink dob in line - it's there to catch cheats and prosecute them.

    The problem is one that requires interagency support and I am not too sure what that looks like or even if there is one (which I would think there be, like in Child protection, for example), as this issue is not going to go away. perhaps a good agenda item for DIBP meetings...

    Keep us posted!

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