By Evie Andreou
Among the cases the police anti-trafficking unit have had to deal with in the past were underage brides sent from Syria to Cyprus on arranged marriage contracts, the head of the unit, Rita Superman, said on Tuesday.
The migration crisis, she said, creates vulnerable groups that fall prey to human traffickers, while interconnection between trafficking and exploitation of persons appears on too many levels, such as employment, sham marriages, and taking advantage of tourist and student visas, she said.
The Chief Inspector, who currently chairs an Interpol committee of experts on human trafficking, said that there is an increasing tendency of migratory flows through the north.
This, she said, is worrying considering the size and capacity of the Republic of Cyprus.
Superman told the Cyprus News Agency that there is “an incredible combination of factors around human trafficking and exploitation” and that her unit had even handled some three to four years ago around 10 cases forced marriages of girls from Syria.
“This usually concerns underage girls from Syria who come to Cyprus, on arranged marriage contracts, to meet the groom,” she said.
The cases her unit had handled, she said, three to four years ago, were during the escalation of the crisis in Syria when the migratory flow from that country was at its peak.
The attorney-general had at the time ruled that such marriages cannot be considered as legal by the Republic of Cyprus.
“We have not come across similar cases recently but we do know they exist,” she said.
It appears that some are also taking advantage of the procedures of the Republic of Cyprus to facilitate human trafficking and smuggling.
Superman said that some organised groups – not from Syria – take advantage of the migration crisis and cross to the government-controlled areas through the north and file for asylum claiming they are victims of human trafficking.
These persons, she said, are already informed of all the procedures concerning asylum protection and recognition of human trafficking victims and know exactly what to do “step-by-step.”
“We cannot rule out they are not victims of human trafficking but it is very difficult to confirm it,” Superman said.
She said that tackling human trafficking was a very difficult issue and all services involved must constantly be alert.