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Hot Pants at the Border: Sorting Sex Work from Trafficking

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 54 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2014 Pages: 2-19
Sharon Pickering; Julie Ham
Date Published
January 2014
18 pages
Based on observations at two Australian airports that process international flights, this study examined the profiling criteria of immigration officials regarding the identification of victims of trafficking into the sex industry across international borders.
The administrative choice of immigration officers is whether to allow or refuse a traveler entry into the country. Individual officers are ultimately responsible for deciding whether to admit a foreign traveler into Australia. The criteria typically used in assessing whether a foreign traveler is entering the country to work in the sex industry is highly gendered and racial. Officers' decisionmaking focused on Asian or African women, as well as whether their behavior was and responses were passive or vague about their reason for entering the country. Little attention was given to the conditions of their employment in Australia or the human rights violations perpetrated against workers who migrate. There is a lack of knowledge among immigration officers about how the sex-work sector operates and the variation in work conditions. Immigration officers have received little training or policy guidance on how to identify and respond to travelers who may be victims of trafficking into Australia as sex workers. For this study, researchers visited two airports for extended periods of observation (over 20 hours). This included access to all parts of the immigration process, including the management of Advanced Passenger Information by analysts while planes were still en route to Australia; the identification of "risky" travelers after disembarking an aircraft; and formal and informal conversations between officials and travelers identified as presenting a risk regarding their travel intentions, documents, and any associated issues. 2 figures and 56 references