No more sexy Swiss visas for Thai strippers

A woman dances in a club in the red light district in Pattaya, Thailand. File photo: Nicolas Asfouri / AFP

Switzerland announced Wednesday it will stop issuing special work permits for foreign strippers, who hail from countries such as Thailand, Russia and the Dominican Republic.

The government said  the eight-month permits would no longer be granted after the end of 2015, on the grounds that they had stoked sexual exploitation in the Alpine country.

“Women are forced to drink alcohol, to prostitute themselves, and it is very difficult to prove it,” Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters.

Created in 1995, the permits were meant to protect foreign women who wanted to work as nightclub dancers and strippers from unscrupulous players in the sex business.

But after in-depth studies, the government decided that so-called “L permit” status for the women was not having its desired effect.

“Based on a range of police investigations, in 2010 the Federal Migration Office reached the conclusion that the status was no longer playing its protective role and was enabling exploitation and human trafficking,” the government said in a statement on Wednesday.

As a result, the government began moves in 2012 to void the rules.

From Jan. 1, 2016, only women from the European Union will be allowed to come to Switzerland to work in nightclubs.

Switzerland is not part of the EU, but is ringed by its member states and has strong economic ties with the 28-nation bloc.

Immigration is closely regulated in Switzerland, with various categories of residence permits known by letters of the alphabet.

C permits are allocated to non-Swiss permanent residents, while the next step down is a B permit, renewable every year.

The L permits granted to nightclub dancers and strippers enabled them to work short term and send money home to their families.

Switzerland issued 844 such permits in 2013, far below the 5,686 given out in 2005, Sommaruga noted.

And half of Switzerland’s 26 cantons no longer issue them at all.

Critics of the system have complained that the women are often forced to pay bribes to middleman in order to get their L permit.

But campaigners have warned that getting rid of the permits could simply drive strippers into working illegally, raising the risk of exploitation.

“The end of these permits will not solve all the problems, far from it,” Sommaruga said.

The government has pledged to help women exploited by the trade, with special procedures to enable them to return home or apply for a Swiss residence permit.

Story: AFP

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CITY: BANGKOKCATEGORY: NEWS

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