Invisible

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Hsiao-Hung Pai

While the ConDems and New Labour fall over themselves to outdo Ukips attack on immigrant workers, Hsiao-Hung Pai goes under cover to work as a housekeeper in a number of brothels and exposes the reality of the lives of the people the Tories want to scapegoat.

These are the hidden victims of the international agenda of privatisation of the public sector and the dismantling of state-owned enterprises. Millions of Chinese and Eastern European women are jobless and marginalised in the labour markets forcing them to find alternative ways to feed their families, some of whom end up working in the UK sex industry. Pai describes in graphic detail the horror of the lives of migrant workers with women forced to migrate because of poverty and inequality.

Pai goes beyond the statistics to tell the heartbreaking stories of women who are forced leave to their children behind to try and earn enough money to feed and educate them.

She talks to women in desperate situations, exploited by their employers, with no rights in this country.

The limited employment opportunities for migrant workers, especially women, and the continual threats of raids on restaurants by immigration officers, have resulted in fewer of these places employing people without papers and have forced women into the sex trade; their only option for survival.

Pai does not just detail the lack of control these women have over their lives, but also their struggle to survive and resist. Pai meets many women with similar stories: Ming who left China and Beata from Poland. Both single mothers, both left their children behind with grandparents so they could earn enough money to provide for their kids. They work from 7am to 1am with a day off every 2 weeks, and are constantly being moved from brothel to brothel - places that are dingy flats where even the housekeeper is forced to stay indoors during opening hours.

In the book the women are real but the punters are not. Beata describes one as a "another sad Englishman with a teenage mind", after he had said "he liked Polish girls" as though they were a make of car or brand of cigarettes.

This is a harrowing but important book. It exposes the myths about immigration not just with hard facts but with the reality of what the government's new racist immigration laws will mean for the invisible thousands.

If health workers end up being immigration police, imagine if after being attacked by a punter or pimp these sex workers were too scared to seek medical advice for fear of being deported.

Minister Vince Cable was asked directly in a radio interview if this meant people taking their passports to the GP. He replied that "checks of various kinds" are under consideration. Reading this made me not just sad but very, very angry!

Sally Kincaid

Invisible is published by Westbourne Press, £10.99