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Female migrants quit factory labour for sex work to survive and provide a better life for relatives back home. Clinging to her bag, she looks like any other bundled-up passer-by in the evening cold. But the year-old Chinese woman from the Zhejiang province, on the country's eastern coast, has been working as a prostitute for the past three years. She arrived in Italy in and, like many of her compatriots, initially found work in small clothes and footwear businesses. With an estimated , Chinese nationals, Italy hosts the largest diaspora community in the European Union.
Xiaoyan is gaunt but has a delicate ap pearance, with shoulder-length black hair and a short fringe. She lived in Civitanova Marche, a central city, before heading north. I hardly slept. When orders arrived, I even worked up to 24 hours. I could not cope with that any longer. I wasn't able to keep the pace any more. In China , Xiaoyan was a stay-at-home mother, looking after her two children.
But her family needed money, so she left. People of rural origin in China have reported being denied basic rights and benefits. A household registration system known as hukou determines citizens' access to education and social welfare. Leaving the village becomes the only way for rural migrants to secure a better future.
After a challenging trip financed with loans from relatives and friends for a tourist visa, Xiaoyan eventually reached Italy. Hours upon hours of bad posture saw a doctor diagnose her with chronic body pain. Two years ago, Xiaoyan was unable to eat for several days when her face became partially paralysed from prolonged exposure to the cold. In , a man picked her up and drove out of the city. He assaulted and raped her, then stole her belongings. She managed to rush out of the car and grab his ID.
But when she went to the police to file a report, she was unable to communicate in the little Italian she knew. Sometimes, I am scared," Xiaoyan said.