Cyprus has been bumped up to the US State Department’s top tier as regards people trafficking, it was announced, after spending four years on Tier 2 and three on Tier 2 Watch List.
“The Government of Cyprus fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” according to the State Department’s Trafficking in People report, which was published on Thursday. “During the reporting period, the government convicted 31 traffickers, a significant increase from nine in 2014.”
The TIP Report assesses government efforts around the world to combat human trafficking
Rita Superman, head of the island’s Anti-Trafficking Unit, received an award from US Secretary of State John Kerry during a ceremony held in Washington DC on Thursday.
She was among nine men and women from around the globe honoured in the ‘The Trafficking in Persons 2016 Hero’ ceremony.
The interior ministry said progress had been achieved in fighting people trafficking in the past two years.
“Tier 1 indicates that a government recognised the existence of the people trafficking phenomenon, it is making efforts to tackle the problem, and it meets the minimum criteria to fight the phenomenon,” the ministry said in a written statement.
Last year, Cyprus had been placed on Tier 2, a step above the Tier 2 Watch List the island found itself in 2014.
“The government approved a national referral mechanism outlining procedures for victim identification and referral to government services,” the report said. “It increased the number of police in the anti-trafficking unit from eight to 12 and expanded the unit’s authority to make it the lead for all potential trafficking investigations throughout the country.”
The report said delays in delivering financial support to victims, a concern in the previous reporting period, were significantly reduced and victims were given priority over less vulnerable beneficiaries.
However, it said, authorities did not investigate trafficking cases among domestic workers or individuals in agriculture because they were “typically seen as labour disputes.”
There were also concerns that some officers within the police anti-trafficking unit conducted insensitive interviews that may have re-traumatized victims.
“Observers also reported interpreters used in the interview process did not have sufficient knowledge of foreign languages, which may have affected victims’ testimonies,” the report said.
The State Department recommended that Cyprus must step up efforts to investigate potential labour trafficking cases, fund specialised training for the police anti-trafficking unit, including best practices for interviewing victims, ensure professional translation services were available, increase efforts to raise awareness of trafficking and victim identification among police and migration authorities, and provide training on victim identification, particularly for forced labour.
Authorities should also launch a study of visa regimes for students, domestic, and agricultural workers, and other categories to identify potential misuse by traffickers, further train judges and prosecutors to ensure robust application of the anti-trafficking law, seek timely restitution and adequate support services for victims, increase screening for trafficking among visa holders in vulnerable sectors such as agriculture and domestic work, and formalize the role of NGOs in the national referral mechanism.