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15 June, 2024
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US hails Cyprus for its efforts in combating human trafficking

However, challenges still remain

Newsroom / CNA

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has been recognized for its serious and sustained efforts in combating human trafficking, according to the annual report released by the U.S. State Department. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cyprus has fully met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, placing it in Tier 1.

Authorities in Cyprus have made progress in identifying more trafficking victims and imposing stricter sentences on perpetrators. To expedite prosecutions, prosecutors were given instructions to prioritize trafficking cases, and virtual testimony was allowed to protect victims during trials.

The country has implemented a robust victim assistance program, including increasing the weekly cash allowance for victims and hiring additional social workers. Awareness campaigns have been organized, focusing on rural and remote areas vulnerable to forced labor and labor violations.

However, the report highlights some challenges. While Cyprus has secured convictions, there has been a decrease in the number of traffickers convicted and defendants prosecuted. The Social Welfare Services (SWS) has faced criticism for delayed responses to potential victims and inadequate referrals to the police for identification procedures.

The report recommends vigorous investigation and prosecution of traffickers, particularly addressing the potential complicity of officials. It emphasizes the proactive identification of victims among vulnerable populations and the allocation of sufficient resources to law enforcement agencies and Social Welfare Services. Adequate resources for victim protection and assistance are necessary, including healthcare access, rental disbursements, and financial aid.

Suggestions include imposing significant prison terms on convicted traffickers, providing training to judges on trafficking sentencing, and enhancing training for government personnel on victim identification and assistance. Efforts to reduce delays in court proceedings and strengthen the capacity of the Labor Inspectorate to identify forced labor victims are also recommended.

The report stresses victim-centered investigations and prosecutions, implementation of witness protection measures when necessary, and adoption of recommendations from monitoring and evaluating entities. Improvements in the restitution process, including training judges on restitution and seizing assets from traffickers, are also suggested. Victims should be informed of their right to pursue compensation.

The trafficking profile of Cyprus reveals that women from Eastern Europe, South and Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa are subjected to sex trafficking in various establishments. Foreign migrant workers are vulnerable to forced labor in the agricultural sector, while domestic workers from different countries face exploitation. Unaccompanied children, Roma individuals, and asylum-seekers are at heightened risk of sex trafficking and forced labor.

The Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus faces challenges in addressing human trafficking, with insufficient efforts from Turkish Cypriot authorities. Victim protection and support services are lacking, and funding for prevention and awareness campaigns is inadequate. Allegations have been made regarding the involvement of government officials and police officers in organized criminal groups associated with nightclubs.

In the Turkish-occupied area, women from Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa are exploited in sex trafficking, while men and women are subjected to forced labor in various sectors. Migrants, Romani children, and Turkish seasonal workers and their families are vulnerable to labor exploitation and trafficking.

Overall, while Cyprus has made commendable efforts in combating human trafficking, there is a need for continued action and improvement in addressing the identified challenges.

Cyprus  |  USA  |  trafficking

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