Newsroom / CNA
Following the unprecedented disruption of a sex trafficking ring in Cyprus, OSCE’s Combating Trafficking in Human Beings praised the country for its progress in combating human trafficking and urged agencies to seek ways for even better coordination.
OSCE acting co-ordinator on human trafficking, Valiant Richey, was on an official visit to Cyprus this week, heading a delegation that met with members of parliament, law enforcement officials, welfare services, labour inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and international and civil society representatives.
The focus of the meetings was the country’s commitments to the implementation of anti-trafficking measures.
The visit coincided with a number of arrests in sex trafficking, including the remand of police officers who are being accused of taking bribes and enabling an illegal prostitution ring.
On the right track, more work to be done
Richey said Cypriot legislators and local agencies were on the right track, noting particularly the work of a special anti-trafficking unit.
But the OSCE official also warned that stalled efforts in coordinating between agencies could also “undermine the progress being made,” a press release issued by the Organisation said.
“Full implementation of the national referral mechanism is crucial to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and victims get the services they are entitled to. Anti-trafficking policies and activities should be designed based on clear evaluation criteria,” Richey was quoted as saying.
Richey said Cypriot legislators and local agencies were on the right track, noting particularly the work of a special anti-trafficking unit
“We welcome the efforts of the Justice Ministry to identify victims, the robust shelter services for victims, as well as the planned revision of the National Action Plan toward an evidence-based, strategically focused set of priorities,” he noted. “There are good opportunities to advance co-ordination at the highest level and mobilize a system of assistance to support trafficked persons.”
A US report recently said the government made important achievements, such as 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.
The OSCE delegation met with the National Commissioner for the Rights of the Child and the Ombudsperson and visited the state-run victims’ shelter in Nicosia as well as the reception centre for asylum seekers in Kofinou.
OSCE puts spotlight on early detection
“We encountered dynamic and engaged front-line responders who are truly remarkable,” said Richey, while adding that “identification and referral procedures at the early stage of migrant registration are now as vital as ever to avoid asylum-seekers falling into the hands of exploitative enterprises.”
Back In May, a UNHCR report called for better standards of treatment of refugee applicants in a manner that asserts the value of asylum.
“I hope that policy-makers, as well as refugee advocates, will find in this study food for thought,” had said Damtew Dessalegne, the UNHCR Representative in Cyprus.
The report was shared with Cypriot authorities while it was also presented and discussed at an open public event in Nicosia.