As twilight falls foreign women dressed in revealing clothes are seen at well-known spots in Colombo waiting for a deal that will bring them cash in return for a night of sex.
But these pretty women are now becoming a growing menace to the country and Immigration authorities are struggling to clamp down on those overstaying their visas.
The end of the war saw an increased flow of tourists and hundreds of women from China, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and Uzbekistan have entered Lankan shores, some on tourist visas while others for jobs in hotels, restaurants and spas.
On Friday, the Department of Immigration and Emigration issued a notice regarding foreigners violating visa conditions.
The notice stated, “foreigners who stay in Sri Lanka violating the regulations stipulated in the Immigrant and Emigrant Act have become a threat to the culture, national security and social order of the country.”
The violations include, overstaying the visa, misuse of visa, having a valid visa to stay in Sri Lanka but engaging in illegal activities (prostitution, trade, etc.)
The Department has also sought public co-operation to get information about such foreign nationals.
Locals who provide such foreigners employment and accommodation will be prosecuted under the existing laws and are liable for severe punishment, the notice further stated.
Immigration and Emmigration Controller General Chulananda Perera told the Sunday Times that a special notice was issued seeking help of the public to curb the increasing number of foreign prostitutes in the country.
“The monitoring intelligence and investigation unit will get tough on foreigners involved in illegal activities even if their visas were valid. We need the public to provide information of such people,” he said.
He said that immigration officers at BIA have been instructed to inspect suspicious individuals even if they possessed a valid visa, passport and return ticket.
A survey conducted by health authorities last year revealed there were about 8,000 prostitutes in Colombo district, both local and foreign.
Last week, Colombo Fort Magistrate Kanishka Wijeratne preventing two Chinese women from leaving the country after they were arrested for alleged involvement in a mobile prostitution ring. The Magistrate also ordered prison authorities to direct the women to a venereal disease clinic.
The racket had been going on in a number of areas in Colombo including Kollupitiya, Bambalapitiya, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Borella, Fort and Town Hall. The suspects were released on surety bail of Rs.100, 000 each.
Last year, in what was considered the biggest brothel raid, a luxury brothel housed at Liberty Plaza was raided and 16 local and foreign women from China and Uzbekistan were arrested along with their managers including the well known ‘Jeena’ madam.
Anti-vice squads raids in Kollupitiya, Bambalapitiya and Mount Lavinia also resulted in the arrest of a number of women, some of them without travel documents.
Anti-Vice Squad officer in Charge Duminda Balasuriya said when raids are conducted some foreign women would tearfully plead with them saying their travel documents are with the pimps and madams.
“These girls can hardly speak English and we have to get embassy officials to act as translators when they are produced in courts,” he said.
He said there was a growing demand for foreign call girls in Colombo and Negombo with the clientele including politicians, businessmen and schoolboys. Among the foreign call girls, Russians are the most expensive charging Rs.10, 000 for a few hours while girls from Ukraine and Uzbekistan charged around Rs. 7,000 and the Chinese and Thai girls Rs. 5000. “Among these are several Thai and Chinese women who had come to the country to work in Chinese restaurants,” he said.
According to him, during a recent raid on a brothel in Colombo 7 schoolboys between the ages of 16-18 were found with foreign prostitutes.
He said more raids were on the cards with police decoys being used to trap foreign women who do not possess valid visas.
“It is a well organized network. In spite of the confidential manner in which police obtain search warrants from magistrates to conduct raids the operators get to know about the raids before hand. We raid three-four brothel houses a month and we hope to increase the number of raids,” he said, adding that mushrooming massage parlours and spas have become hubs for foreign call girls.
The officer said under the Brothel Ordinance, owners, managers and customers can be fined up to Rs. 50,000 and face six month imprisonment while foreigners face deportation after investigations.