A US report on human trafficking has reinstated the Republic of Cyprus back to Tier 1, saying the country meets minimum standards while the situation in the north is a lot worse.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who offered remarks during the launch ceremony of the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, said many countries were stepping up their efforts while others were making it easier for traffickers to commit crimes.
“The Government of Cyprus bolstered efforts to convict traffickers and improve protections for victims as well,” Pompeo said.
'The Government of Cyprus bolstered efforts to convict traffickers and improve protections for victims as well,' Pompeo said
The government made important achievements that warranted an upgrade, according to the report, following last year’s downgrade to Tier 2 which meant Cyprus did not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
The latest achievements included convicting more traffickers and increasing victim protection efforts by improving the quality of service, increasing resources to NGOs, and holding monthly trainings for state-run shelter staff.
But the government failed to reduce the length of trials with victims facing bureaucratic delays in accessing health care and labour inspectors lacking resources.
Observers also reported a need for an independent evaluation of anti-trafficking policies and programs.
Problem worse in the north
The report was particularly harsh on Turkish Cypriot efforts to combat trafficking, giving a bad grade to the north and calling it “a zone of impunity for human trafficking.”
“The area is a destination for women from Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa who are subjected to forced prostitution in nightclubs licensed and regulated by the Turkish Cypriot administration,” the report said.
It also criticised nightclubs in the north for being a significant source of tax revenue, thus posing issues of conflict of interest for Turkish Cypriot authorities.
There is no law specifically banning human trafficking in the north, but pimping prostitutes and forced labour are prohibited in the Turkish Cypriot criminal code.
“Turkish Cypriot authorities do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so,” said the report.
“If the ‘TRNC’ were assigned a formal ranking in this report, it would be Tier 3,” it added.
Trafficking is global and local
Both communities on the island are expected to continue facing huge problems in human trafficking, especially in illegal labour and sex trade.
“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too. Human trafficking can be found in a favorite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbor’s home,” Pompeo said.