By Annette Chrysostomou
Cyprus has improved its trafficking record and has been upgraded by the US State Department, an official from the US embassy said on Tuesday.
Even though the government of Cyprus did not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it was making significant efforts to do so, the official said. Cyprus remains on Tier 2 but with an improved status.
Victims identified in Cyprus were primarily from Eastern Europe and South Asia. In previous years, victims from Africa, Dominican Republic, and Philippines were also identified.
According to the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, trafficking occurs in private apartments and hotels, on the streets and within commercial sex trade outlets in Cyprus. Asylum seekers are subjected to forced labour in agriculture and domestic work, the report said.
“During the reporting period, the government convicted three traffickers and punished them with the most stringent sentences ever issues for trafficking crime in Cyprus”, the embassy spokesperson said adding that “it also achieved the first two convictions for child sex trafficking.”
The government also nearly doubled the number of victims identified. The official stressed that it was important to identify who the victims were. “Though dramatic cases exist where physical assault is involved, we have to recognise that even if you take a person’s passport, it is a risk factor for trafficking as it inhibits the person’s movement”. In addition, she explained that trafficking doesn’t necessarily mean that someone crosses an international boarder.
The Cyprus government increased its efforts to protect victims during the year, and report highlights that it maintained the level of financial resources allocated for victims.
However, there have been delays in the issuance of monthly public allowance cheques. Some male victims who did not receive any benefits had to rely exclusively on NGOs for care.
“Victims were sent to unsuitable and exploitative jobs where they were expected to work for more hours than legally permitted and received salaries below the minimum wage” was another comment in the report.
Though there is no official coverage of the northern area of Cyprus, the report states that “if the ‘TRNC’ were assigned a formal ranking in this report, it would be Tier 3, the ‘blacklist’.
“The area administered by Turkish Cypriots continues to be a zone of impunity for human trafficking” the report said. The embassy official added that some efforts were made by the
Turkish Cypriot authorities to cooperate with NGOs but as there was no official coverage, there was also no official pressure.
The spokesperson said trafficking was a $150 billion dollar modern slavery industry worldwide and the aim of the report was not to ‘name and shame’ but to improve the situation.