Switzerland grants its final special 'stripper visas'

Geneva (AFP) –


More than 700 foreign strippers received a special Swiss work permit in 2015, the last issued in a controversial programme that expires on January 1, the immigration office said Tuesday.

Switzerland began awarding eight-month permits in 1995 to women from outside the European Union who wanted to come to the country to work as strippers and cabaret dancers.

The programme was meant to protect people who may have otherwise been vulnerable to sex traffickers, and dancers from Russia, the Dominican Republic and Thailand were among the top recipients.

But following a prolonged investigation, Swiss authorities in 2014 announced that the programme was no longer serving a protective role, with some permit holders subjected to forced prostitution after arrival in the country.

Migration office spokeswoman Lea Wertheimer confirmed that the programme will formally be cancelled as of the new year.

She said 751 people received the so-called stripper visa in 2014 and 712 others were given the permit this year, according to figures updated in October.

Since 2005, more than 10,700 people were given the visas, called "L permits".

Proponents said it gave women a chance to earn significant money in wealthy Switzerland which they could send home to their families.

But critics argued the programme had been corrupted, notably by traffickers and middlemen who demanded money after helping helping women get their permits.