Asian women 'picking up men instead of books' using Aussie visa

ASIAN sex workers are taking advantage of Australia's student and working holiday visas to ply their trade Down Under, where they can make around HK$60,000 (S$10,000) a week.

In Hong Kong, some women are known to sign up for language schools in Australia, only to pick up men in brothels instead of books soon after they touch down, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday, citing advocates and sources in the industry.

"In the past three weeks, I have met up with 17 new ladies who have travelled to Sydney from Hong Kong on student paperwork supplied by the school, so that they can enter Sydney and commence working in brothels," one source who helped the women settle in Australia told the Post.

A seven-day shift in Sydney's brothels can reap these women some HK$60,000.

This compares to the median monthly domestic household income of HK$22,400 in 2013 back home, according to Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department.

The women typically hail from the New Territories, a rural area that separates urban Kowloon and mainland China.

Prostitution is legal in Australia and holders of study visas can work for up to 20 hours a week, but some sex workers are cutting class altogether.

In some cases, the schools are even complicit in bringing in the prostitutes, and women's advocates say the women risk falling into sex slavery and debt bondage, the Post reported.

In 2013, a Sydney brothel madam, Chee Mei Wong, then 39, was jailed for six years for recruiting four women on student visas from Malaysia and forcing them into sexual servitude of others.

The victims claimed they were ordered to perform unprotected and demeaning sex acts during their 17-hour shifts, said a Sydney Morning Herald report.

The allure of working in Australia is also drawing young Taiwanese women - armed with the Working Holiday visa, which allows them to work and holiday in Australia for up to a year - to its sleazy bars and massage parlours, according to an earlier report by Taiwan's Apple Daily.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.