Cyprus Mail

State refuge failing trafficking victims

By Evie Andreou

VICTIMS OF human trafficking trust non-governmental-organisations (NGOs) more than the state shelter for recognised victims EDEK MP Roulla Mavronicola told the House human rights committee on Monday.

Mavronicola said that the staff that mans the state shelter are not trained to provide the necessary psycho-social support nor are they able to convince the victims to remain in Cyprus until they have appeared in court as witnesses against their traffickers.

Committee members said that Cyprus is high up on the observation list on human trafficking and that there is a lack of coordination between the NGOs and state services.

According to police records, at present there are 35 recognised victims of human trafficking, 16 of whom were victims of sexual exploitation and 14 were victims of exploitation in the workplace. A further five people are being held for suspected marriages of convenience.

According to committee chairman, Sofoklis Fyttis, non-governmental-organisations who shelter trafficking victims help them return to their countries without informing the authorities. Their disappearance means they cannot testify against the traffickers.

“Lack of communication and cooperation equals non distribution of justice,” Fyttis said.

The committee said that they would ask the interior ministry for a meeting to discuss whether shelters run by NGOs could be supervised and police and state services informed of the victims they host.

Contact would also be made with the labour minister asking her to promote regulations for the state refuge.

Fyttis said that recognised victims hosted at the government’s refuge are not receiving necessary support and choose to return home before testifying against their traffickers in court.

He also said that the committee has asked from the police to provide data on the number of recognised victims that are expected to testify and the penalties that have been given to traffickers in previous cases.

AKEL’s committee member Stella Mishiaouli, said that the most important problem is the lack of coordination between state services and NGOs.

“While there is the 2013-15 action plan on human trafficking, which points out that the first year regulations of the shelters and cooperation between the state bodies and NGOs will be registered, we have nothing in our hands,” she said.

“We are on the observation list with countries which would be a disgrace and an insult to have any comparison with, like Botswana. It is a very important issue that tarnishes us internationally,” Mavronikola said.

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