Visa to vice: Australian migration agents bring sex workers as students
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 13:37
Tom Reilly, Anne Davies, Nick McKenzie, Maris Beck, October 12, 2011
LICENSED migration agents are helping bring women to Australia on student visas who end up working in conditions of sexual slavery or at illegal brothels.
Information seen by the Herald in police documents or in complaints to authorities has raised questions about the part played by two licensed migration agents, Xu Xu Li of Sydney, and Yasmin Bao of Melbourne, in the visa applications for women who end up in Australia's illicit sex trade. Police sources have told the Herald that federal or state authorities have raised concerns about up to a dozen migration agents, but that no action has been taken on the information gathered.
Xu Xu Li is a Sydney migration agent referred to several times in federal police documents recently tendered to the Melbourne Magistrates Court in the prosecution of a woman alleged to have kept sex slaves.
The AFP documents allege that Ms Li arranged student visas and school applications for two women who police believe to have been trafficked by an international criminal syndicate from Asia to Australia in mid-2009. The syndicate is alleged to have trafficked women and forced the women to work as sex slaves in Sydney and Melbourne.
A federal police witness statement from one of the alleged victims states the victim's belief that Ms Li was working with two senior syndicate figures. ''I realised that she [Xu Xu Li] must be working with them and must be in charge of all the student visa applications.''
Last year AFP officers raided Ms Li's Lidcombe home. However Ms Li has not been charged with any offence and denies any wrongdoing.
Ms Li told the Herald she had co-operated with police: "If anybody was lying to the girls, they were lying to me, so I am the victim as well.''
The 36-year-old said she never met or communicated directly with either of the alleged sex slaves and that all contact with them was made through "people in the middle''.
She refused to name those people, but confirmed she had arranged tens of visas on their behalf in recent years.
The AFP said it was aware of allegations of migration agents involved in the sex trafficking industry but referred questions about the licensing of these agents to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
However, a department spokesman said it has ''no evidence to suggest any migration agents have been linked with people trafficking in the sex industry in the last five years''.
Migration agents are registered by the federal government and are meant to be governed by a strict code of conduct. The chief executive of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, Christine Sykes, told the Herald no agents in the past 10 years had been sanctioned over allegations of sex slavery or trafficking. Since July 2009, 17 registered migration agents had been sanctioned over other breaches.