Man Sentenced to 10 Months' Home Detention for Aiding Illegal Prostitution Operation in New Zealand. Immigration NZ investigation uncovers prostitution ring involving Brazilian women. Visa conditions breached, but no reports of exploitation. Sentencing aims to deter profiting from vulnerable migrants.
Michael James Sloan has been sentenced to 10 months' home detention for aiding Brazilian women to work as prostitutes illegally in New Zealand. Sloan was charged in 2019 and pleaded guilty to charges of aiding and abetting international sex workers. His arrest came after an investigation by Immigration NZ based on anonymous tip-offs.
The investigation revealed that Sloan and his co-defendant acted as booking agents for 15 Brazilian women, helping them to advertise their services, handle customer service, and make bookings. The business operated out of motels across the central North Island. Although none of the women reported work exploitation, their visa conditions were breached.
Sloan's sentencing marks the result of years of work by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. James Friend, the national manager of immigration investigations, hopes that the sentence will deter others from profiting from migrants. Temporary entry class visas strictly prohibit the provision of commercial sexual services.
This condition is in place to protect migrants from exploitation, as they are vulnerable to abuse from employers and customers. Migrants engaged in the commercial sex industry are unlikely to report abuse to the authorities.
Sloan's co-defendant will be sentenced on 12 April. It was also reported that all of the Brazilian women involved in the operation have since been deported from New Zealand.
Under current New Zealand law, only citizens and residents over 18 are allowed to work in the sex industry. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has recommended that the government amend Section 19 of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which prohibits non-citizens or residents from engaging in the sex industry.
CEDAW believes that the ban on engaging in prostitution imposed on migrants can lead to exploitation and human trafficking, as migrants fear deportation if they report abuse. The Ministry for Women, however, stated in its latest Periodic Report to CEDAW that there is no current work being done to reform the Act.
Between April 2022 and April 2023, 30 migrants suspected of intending to work in the sex industry while on temporary visas were denied entry at the New Zealand border. Thirteen of them were Brazilians. New Zealand Prostitutes Collective founder Dame Catherine Healey argues that prohibiting migrants from engaging in the sex industry does not prevent them from doing so. She believes that the current legislation contributes to exploitation rather than fighting it.
Healey suggests that the government should repeal the laws against migrant sex workers in response to the recommendations of CEDAW. Research has shown that decriminalisation of sex work improves the safety and well-being of sex workers, including migrants. Keeping sex work repressed and illegal is harmful to sex workers' rights, safety, and health.