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Fact Check-Berlin sex worker group not ‘recruiting’ Ukrainian refugees

Update March 30, 2022: adds detail to paragraph 13 to clarify that ‘entry consultations’ are carried out by a different organisation.

Social media posts from a German sex work support network have spread online with users falsely claiming the group is “recruiting” Ukrainian refugees to work in brothels. The group was in fact highlighting support for existing sex workers, it told Reuters.

Trans*Sexworks is a Berlin-based peer support and mutual aid group primarily for transgender, intersex and non-binary people who do sex work (transsexworks.com/).

Users are sharing screenshots of two of the group’s posts offering peer-to-peer counselling for sex workers fleeing Ukraine since Russia’s invasion (here) and (here).

They say sex workers of all genders arriving in Berlin can contact Trans*Sexworks for support.

Social media users sharing the posts claim the network is “targeting” Ukrainian refugees and “recruiting” them for the sex industry (here), (here).

“Trans orgs now actively recruiting Ukrainian refugees to work in brothels,” one example reads.

Trans*Sexworks is not recruiting sex workers, however, the group told Reuters.

“We are absolutely not looking to ‘recruit’ Ukrainian refugees to enter sex work in Germany,” Wren Oscyth, one of the group’s members, said in an email.

They explained that the project is an existing mutual aid network run by sex workers who provide peer counselling and support for other people who do sex work in Berlin, where it is legal.

Oscyth added: “We have absolutely no connection to brothels or places of employment in Germany.”

“There currently is not a single member of our group who is employed at a brothel or club since it is very uncommon for those places to hire trans and non-binary workers.”

The group was highlighting support for people who already do sex work in light of an influx of refugees in Berlin, they said.

Trans*Sexworks also helps organise “entry consultations” for individuals wanting to begin sex work in Germany safely by connecting them to Hydra, a separate organisation for sex workers, the group told Reuters. A social worker would introduce the industry, covering work, money, taxes, laws and health, as well as other alternative forms of work.

They added: “An entry-consultation does not encourage sex work, but gives people the information they need to make a self-determined choice about it. It is very common for people to begin sex work during a time of financial precariousness; this includes people fleeing war.”

Approximately half of the people who have a consultation do not end up entering sex work, Oscyth said.

Trans*Sexworks receives funding from the Berlin State Office for Equal Treatment and Against Discrimination (LADS) since Jan. 2020, it told Reuters.

The group is part of TransInterQueer, a registered association for transgender and intersex people (here).

The city of Berlin has warned Ukrainian refugees about the risk of sex trafficking. However, police said there was no concrete evidence of refugees being forced into prostitution so far (here).

VERDICT

Misleading. Trans*Sexworks does not recruit sex workers. It is a peer support group for sex workers. It says none of its members are employed or connected to brothels.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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