Foreign prostitution in Norway The term foreign prostitution refers to prostitution where the person selling sex is a person of foreign origin. Most foreign prostitution fits into one of two categories: migrant prostitution and human trafficking. The main difference between migrant prostitution and trafficking is that trafficking involves exploitation and coercion by a third party. Migrant prostitutes, meanwhile, travel abroad on their own accord in order to sell sexual services. There is a grey area between the two categories, and in practice it can be difficult to distinguish between victims of trafficking and other foreign women working as prostitutes. What is true in the case of both human trafficking and migrant prostitution, is that poverty or other circumstances make people feel that they have been forced into prostitution due to a lack of alternatives. Before the turn of the millennium, there were very few foreign prostitutes working in Norway. In 2001, only 19% of the people who Pro Centre was in touch with were of foreign origin. By 2005 the figure had increased to 67%, and in 2014 it was 90%. Over this period, foreign prostitutes have also started working throughout Norway, and not just in Oslo.
Nationalities In 2014, Pro Sentret met women from over 40 different countries. Most of them are originally from Nigeria, Thailand, the Balkan region, the Baltic states or Eastern Europe. There is some link between the women’s country of origin, and where they sell sexual services. Some nationalities, such as Estonians, Lithuanians and Russians, work both on the streets and indoors. Others, such as women from Nigeria, Bulgaria and Romania, only or almost only sell sex on the streets. Conversely, our experience is that people from Thailand only work indoors.
Residence status in Norway The residence status of the women in Norway varies greatly. Some of them have come to Norway after marrying a Norwegian citizen, or through family reunification with relatives who live in Norway. These women have residence and work permits, and some are Norwegian citizens. This is particularly the case with women from Thailand. EU citizens who come to Norway can stay for up to three months while looking for work, or six months if they register as job-seekers with NAV. Many of the women who we meet are staying in Norway under that arrangement. Some of the foreign women who sell sexual services in Norway have a residence permit in another Schengen country. This is particularly true of women from Nigeria. They can come to Norway without a visa, and are allowed to stay for up to three months. Some of the people who are not EU or EEA citizens choose to seek asylum in Norway. We also know that a number of women are in the country illegally. Victims of human trafficking can apply for a so-called period of reflection in Norway.
How prostitution is organised Many foreign sex workers have links to, pay or are controlled by a third party, although there is a lot of variation in the exact arrangements, in how much is paid and in the level of control. The activities of these third parties are illegal in Norway. Within organised prostitution, in practice it can often be difficult to distinguish between human trafficking and pimping. Human trafficking for prostitution involves elements of pimping, but not all pimping is trafficking. Paying part of what you earn to a third party often feels like exploitation. On the other hand, many women emphasises that they would never have been able to come to Europe or Norway without the help of their facilitators. The situation is further complicated by the fact that some of the women have/develop personal relationships with their facilitators. Sometimes it is their boyfriends, husbands or friends/acquaintances who act as facilitators, demanding all or a large part of their income. You can read more about the laws that regulate prostitution here, and about human trafficking here.