Monday, April 28, 2008

Sex group wants prostitutes on skilled visa list

A group representing Australia's sex workers says it would be cheaper for authorities to give foreign prostitutes skilled work visas instead of spending time and money prosecuting them.

Elena Jeffreys, from the Scarlet Alliance, told the 2020 summit in Canberra this month the current system also leaves women more vulnerable to trafficking as they are forced to deal with third-party agents.

She has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program that sex work currently does not qualify as one of the skills the Government is allowing for skilled migrants entering Australia.

"However, a lot of sex workers simply chose hospitality to describe what they're doing when they come to Australia, because it is an accurate description, given the type of work that it is, and that's how it is described from where they come from," she said.

"So, we're seeking a human rights approach to labour migration generally, so that any labour migration policy can include a non-discriminatory approach to sex workers as well."

Ms Jeffreys says apprehending foreign prostitutes cost the Australian police and Immigration Department about $80 million over the past few years, and this money could be better spent on community development and education of the rights of sex workers in Australia and the region.

She says there was a positive response from other attendees at the 2020 summit to her suggestions, including state police and defence forces.

"All of those people involved in law enforcement absolutely, wholeheartedly agreed that by the time a prosecution is taking place, it is already too late, and we have failed as a society if we focus only on prosecuting after a human rights abuse has occurred."

"There was broad consensus that prevention was better than prosecutions... but, more broadly, if human rights can be broadened to include migrant sex workers in Australia, then people have got a better chance of stopping exploitation before it happens."


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