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NZ: Immigration raids catch 21 illegal prostitutes (Auckland)

Publish Date: 26 Apr 2012
Source: NZ Herald
By: Lincoln Tan

Immigration raids catch 21 illegal sex workers

Twenty-one prostitutes have been found working illegally in Auckland brothels raided by Immigration NZ officials since the Rugby World Cup.

"Eight brothels have been visited to check for people who may be working contrary to their visa conditions and to remind premise operators of their obligations to ensure compliance with immigration law," said Immigration's acting general manager for intelligence, risk and integrity, Peter Elms.

At one Auckland brothel, Emily's 8, four prostitutes were found to be working illegally. They included one Malaysian who was on a student visa.

The brothel, in Waverley St, has been issued a warning letter.

The Herald understands another Auckland brothel, which last year withheld the passport of a Malaysian sex worker, was also raided.

Last June, a 28-year-old Vietnamese on a student visa to study English was found working as a prostitute there.

The 21 prostitutes found to be without valid visas included 10 from Hong Kong, seven from China, and others from Korea, Malaysia, India and Fiji.

The 21 prostitutes found to be without valid visas included 10 from Hong Kong, seven from China, and others from Korea, Malaysia, India and Fiji.

Two women have voluntarily left New Zealand and others had been served deportation liability notices.

Immigration said at least one illegal sex worker had made a new application, and the agency had yet to make a decision on it.

Although prostitution has been decriminalised in New Zealand, it is illegal for people on temporary visas, such as visitors and students, to work in the sex industry.

Under the Prostitution Act 2003, only NZ citizens and people with residency can work in the industry.

"While there have been no prosecutions, we are monitoring this sector closely and will continue to visit brothels as part of our compliance work within the sex industry," Mr Elms said.

A staff member at Emilys 8 said the agency also took away the manager's cellphone and another belonging to a sex worker during the raid.

She said police had continued to visit the brothel regularly, and that was "badly affecting the business".

Brothel operators said they were aware of the immigration and prostitution law, but it was nearly impossible to check the immigration status of all women who applied for jobs.

"We operate in an industry where people don't use their real names and identities, and it is normal for us to respect the need to be discreet and the privacy of both our workers and clients," said one brothel manager.


© Copyright 2012, APN Holdings NZ Limited
Article


Stop Demand's comments: 

(1) "... brothels have been visited ...  to remind premise operators of their obligations to ensure compliance with immigration law";  and "While there have been no prosecutions ..." Mr Elms said.

A total of 21 breaches by brothels, yet no prosecutions?  This is not a new law.  Instead of issuing "wet bus-ticket" warning letters, the Immigration Department should be prosecuting offending brothels and clubs for offences that attract upwards of either a $10,000 or $50,000 fine (s357 of the Immigration Act 2009).  Mr Elms and his Department need to start applying the law as it was intended, to give it "teeth" and provide some deterrence.  It is little wonder that the illegal sex industry continues to flourish in New Zealand.

(2) "Brothel operators said they were aware of the immigration and prostitution law, but it was nearly impossible to check the immigration status of all women who applied for jobs."  

Brothels with such inept operators should be shut down.  Section 350 of the Immigration Act 2009 requires employers to take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence in ascertaining whether a prospective employee can legally work.  The onus is on brothel operators to seek proof of the immigration status of women they employ.  No proof, no job.  Not rocket science.  Foreigner on a student visa?  No job.  Fake names and identities?  No job.  What other employer would accept employees providing fake names and identities then claim an inability to check immigration status of such persons?  Yet apparently these inane excuses are accepted by a seemingly soft Immigration Department. 

Stop Demand urges Mr Elms and the Immigration Department to "lift its game".