Australian immigration authorities urged to admit prostitutes on 457 visas

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The industry body representing Australian prostitutes, the Australian Sex Workers Association, also known as the Scarlet Alliance, has demanded that the role of 'sex worker' should be placed on the Australian Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List. Placing the role on the list would enable foreign prostitutes to travel to Australia to work in the sex industry on an Australian temporary work visas known as the '457 visa'.

Prostitution was legalised in Australia in 1992 but in western states, it is not regulated and brothels are forbidden. In eastern states, (New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory) brothels are legal and regulated. The Scarlet Alliance says that sex work is skilled work and international sex workers should be able to apply for 457 visas like other skilled workers.

Only skilled occupations can be placed on CSOL. The Australian government says that the role of sex worker has not been on the list up until now because there are no exams or recognised trade qualifications that prostitutes can take in order to prove their ability.

The Scarlet Alliance says that, in fact, it runs a Diploma in Community Education course for sex workers. Jules Kim of the Alliance addressed an Inquiry into the working of the Temporary Work (Skilled) – Standard Business Sponsorship (subclass 457) visa system held by the Australian Senate Ms Kim said that 'sex work is no less skilled than other occupations'.

A Scarlet Alliance submission to the Inquiry said that sex workers were skilled at 'working with condoms and dams, negotiating prices and services, performing sexually transmitted infection checks, making risk assessments and establishing boundaries'.

Sex workers are vulnerable to exploitation

Ms Kim said that, unless sex-workers from overseas were able to come to Australia with a 457 visa, they would be vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous pimps. She said 'there are very limited visa pathways for migrant sex workers. The more legal, safe migration pathways you have open to people, the less likely they're going to be vulnerable to exploitation'.

She said that people from many countries and people aged over 30 could not apply for working holiday visas which left them open to exploitation.

Ms Kim said that, at present, 'in order to gain a visa, some migrant sex workers enter into contracts with people who will sponsor and assist their entry into Australia or use a third party or broker to facilitate completion of documentation'.

But a spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said that foreigners who are in Australia with working holiday or student visas would be able to work in the legal sex industry.

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