Belleville prostitutes within the police sights earlier than the Olympics | EUROtoday

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As the countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympics has begun, Chinese prostitutes within the Belleville district say they’re victims of an intense marketing campaign of police harassment geared toward dissuading them from working. For a number of months, associations serving to probably the most susceptible have denounced a social cleaning supposed to make the City of Lights shine in the course of the Games.

Every month, Aying* sends a part of his wage to his household again in China. In her nation, everybody thinks that this grandmother in her sixties works on the checkout counter in a Parisian grocery store. In actuality, Aying is a intercourse employee. A “walker” from Belleville. For round ten years, she has been a part of a small group of Chinese girls who, for varied causes, ended up promoting their our bodies within the streets of this district within the northeast of the capital.

When he arrived in 2013, Aying had different plans. She hoped to discover a job in one of many metropolis's many eating places or bars, or maybe in a boutique. “They said that you could earn money easily here. For me, France was a somewhat imaginary, romantic country. Paris was fashion, Coco Chanel, Dior and all that,” explains – she laughed at her naivety on the time. “Actually, Paris is not that at all. It’s dirty, far from the bling-bling side,” she provides, wrapped in a “Prada” stamped scarf.

Finding a job truly turned out to be rather more troublesome than anticipated. Within months, her financial savings dwindled and she or he started prostitution to outlive. It is unimaginable for her to think about a return to China, from which she left for monetary causes and due to “family changes” which she prefers to not dwell on.

Increased repression

For a number of a long time, Asian intercourse staff have crisscrossed the panorama of Belleville, a working-class neighborhood that’s residence to one of many largest Chinese communities in Paris. According to estimates from Médecins du Monde courting from 2016, there are almost 1,500 Chinese prostitutes engaged on the streets of the capital.

Some days, Aying says she has no clients.
Some days, Aying says she has no shoppers. © Louise Nordstrom, FRANCE 24

The focus of those girls across the Belleville crossroads owes nothing to probability: positioned on the crossroads of 4 districts, it’s harder for the police to establish the competent police station to hold out checks and arrests.

But in 2016, France took a flip within the battle in opposition to prostitution. No extra penalizing soliciting on public roads. The sanction now weighs on patrons of sexual companies. According to Aying, this modification within the legislation scared away a big a part of his clientele, nevertheless it a minimum of made it potential to scale back the variety of police checks. But over the previous 12 months or so, the scenario has modified: controls have resumed, and the nearer the Paris Games strategy, the more severe the scenario will get.

“They carry out checks all the time now. They even come in the evening and at night. It has become systematic on Tuesday evenings, for example, and on Sunday evenings too,” she says. “They want to prevent us from working,” judges Aying.

Many of the town's intercourse staff have additionally protested the strategies utilized by the police in latest months. In March, a collective of 17 associations and unions representing Paris prostitutes issued a joint assertion condemning an “all-out repressive approach” within the run-up to the Olympics and warning of the “obvious consequences for health and safety sex workers.

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According to these associations, the police are currently carrying out a harassment campaign consisting of increasing identity checks. For Chinese sex workers, these controls are particularly dissuasive. Not only are these women undocumented, but the vast majority of them are elderly and sick.

“They are usually not younger girls. Most of them are 45, 50 and 60 years previous, generally older,” says Ting, who works as a manager, coordinator, administrator, interpreter, accountant and more for the association The Steel Roses. Created in 2014, this association attempts to help these sex workers understand their rights and direct them towards a course of care.

Access to medical treatment is vital for these vulnerable and elderly women. Faced with drastic hormonal changes linked to menopause, they suffer from a multitude of health problems compared to their younger colleagues. In an irregular situation, they also fear being deported and never being able to obtain a visa again. In December 2023, one of them, who arrived illegally on French territory, was returned to China.

Added to this is the risk of physical attacks. Since Ting began working with these women ten years ago, several of them have been murdered. “I already have between six and eight,” she slips. “There are also natural deaths, with many women dying from heart attacks.”

Mothers and grandmothers

Ting, who is the only one in the collective to speak French fluently, explains that most of the “Steel Roses” (some 150 in Belleville and round 600 in France) got here to Europe in quest of a greater life, after having skilled severe social and monetary difficulties in China.

“They have faced precariousness, unemployment, a violent husband, or his death. Many mothers, even grandmothers, are trying to transform their situation and fulfill family responsibilities,” she summarizes. .

Aying a "over 60 years old" and started working as a prostitute 10 years ago.  Every month, she sends part of her salary to her family in China.
Aying is “over 60” and began working as a prostitute 10 years in the past. Every month, she sends a part of her wage to her household in China. © Louise Nordstrom, FRANCE 24

The toughening of police strategies in Belleville has prompted a wave of shock and concern inside the neighborhood, says the activist. “It's really problematic, we're very worried. We've already seen that there are a lot more checks and arrests in recent months. It's clear that they're targeting TDS [travailleuses du sexe] Chinese. Plus, it's totally discriminatory: if there are three sex workers on the street and one of them is Chinese, they will attack her. And the situation will only get worse as we get closer to the Games.”

Belleville, one of many uncommon districts of inner-city Paris the place prostitution continues to be evident, may change into unlivable for a lot of Chinese intercourse staff, in accordance with Ting. The latter may discover themselves with out assets or should go away for different cities – to locations and shoppers they have no idea, removed from the social help they profit from in Paris.

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“If they can't work, they have to save more money. So, this involves taking risks, like accepting practices that they didn't want to accept before,” estimates Ting, in accordance with which these girls earn between 30 and 80 euros per buyer, relying on the service.

In a response despatched by e mail, the Paris police headquarters didn’t want to touch upon the accusations of police harassment made by Chinese prostitutes. On the opposite hand, it acknowledges an intensification, because the Games strategy, of its “fight against prostitution”, pimping and brothels by way of specialised brigades.

Contacted by France 24, the city corridor of 20e The district didn’t reply to our requests.

According to Aying, who now serves as president of Roses d'Acier, Chinese intercourse staff signify simple targets for French authorities. “Most of us don't have identity papers and so they use identity checks as an excuse to clean the streets,” she stated.

Although Aying now not has to fret about identification checks – she is without doubt one of the uncommon “Steel Roses” to have obtained authorized standing in France – she is struggling to search out shoppers within the present context. . “There are a lot of days when I have no customers. I have no income,” she confides.

In these lean days, she says it's much more essential to maintain a cool head and never take pointless dangers. “That means doing everything you can to try to stay safe.” But for her undocumented sisters in Belleville, the pre-Olympic cleansing leaves few options.

*His identify has been modified at his request, to protect his anonymity.

Article translated from English by Grégoire Sauvage, the unique might be discovered right here.