A US report says the Republic of Cyprus fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, while also offering recommendations for improving prosecution of criminals and offering assistance to victims.
According to the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which covers government efforts undertaken from April 2018 through March 2019, the government of Cyprus continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period. As a result of those efforts, Cyprus remained on Tier 1 while noting that the situation in the northern part of the island is a lot worse.
The reports pointed out that more traffickers were prosecuted and more funds were allocated to state-run shelters, including opening a children’s safe house and funding an NGO to operate a day care facility for trafficking victims.
Long delays in prosecution
But it also pointed out that observers reported key witnesses left the country before trial due to long delays, hindering prosecution efforts. While the law allowed courts to hold closed-door trials, keep a partition to separate victims from their traffickers, remote testimony, and the use of video-recorded testimonies for child victims, none of these methods were used in 2017 or 2018.
Pending laws blocking outside evaluation
The report also said the government failed to adopt a national plan for 2019-2021, pointing out that a pending amendment to anti-trafficking legislation had delayed the implementation of outside evaluations. The Ombudsman had accepted the role of an external evaluator of the government’s anti-trafficking policies in response to observers, who reported a need for an independent evaluation of anti-trafficking policies and programs.
Traffickers subject women to sex trafficking, with most criminal activity taking place in private apartments and hotels, on the street, and within commercial establishments
According to the TIP report, as reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cyprus, with victims back in 2018 identified as coming from Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, The Gambia, India, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
Traffickers subject women, primarily from Eastern Europe, Vietnam, India, and sub-Saharan Africa, to sex trafficking, with most criminal activity taking place in private apartments and hotels, on the street, and within commercial sex outlets in Cyprus, including bars, pubs, coffee shops, and cabarets.
Sham marriages & forced labour
Traffickers recruit some female sex trafficking victims with false promises of marriage or work as barmaids or hostesses. Traffickers subject foreign migrant workers—primarily from South and Southeast Asia—to forced labor in agriculture. Migrant workers subjected to labor trafficking are recruited by employment agencies and enter the country on short-term work permits. But after the permits expire, they are often subjected to debt-based coercion, threats, and withholding of pay and documents.
Domestic workers from India, Nepal, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka are vulnerable to forced labor. Traffickers subject asylum seekers from Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe to forced labor in agriculture and domestic work. Unaccompanied children, children of migrants, Roma, and asylum seekers are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor.
Situation in the north
The report also noted that the situation in the north is a lot worse, assigning a bad grade over the area administered by Turkish Cypriots continues, which continues to be a “zone of impunity for human trafficking.”
Turkish Cypriots did not keep statistics on law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders, according to the report, adding that Turkish Cypriot authorities do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so.
The area administered by Turkish Cypriots lacked shelters and social, economic, and psychological services for victims. Local observers reported authorities were complicit in facilitating trafficking, and police continued to retain passports upon arrival of women working in nightclubs.
An official grade was not given to the north since it is not a recognised entity, however it would have been Tier 3 according to the report. The south remained in Tier 3, while Greece and Turkey were classified as Tier 2 countries.