The 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report released Thursday by the State Department shows that the government of Cyprus fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and that it continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts, which included prosecuting more traffickers and increasing funds to the government-run shelter.
The report included several recommendations and also referred to the north, an area “administered by Turkish Cypriots” which “continues to be a zone of impunity for human trafficking”.
According to the report, the Cyprus government strengthened child protection measures by opening a children’s house to provide support services to child victims and allocated funds to an NGO to operate a day care centre for children of trafficking victims.
“Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not convict any traffickers for sex trafficking or forced labour and court proceedings continued to face delays. Administrative issues, particularly within the Social Welfare Service, hindered victim assistance measures, such as slow responses to referrals of potential trafficking victims and delays in financial assistance,” the report said.
It also included recommendations and asked the government to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers and impose significant prison terms on convicted traffickers, to reduce delays in accessing assistance, to respond to referrals of potential trafficking victims in a timely manner and increase access to support for victims identified outside of business hours of support service providers and to proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations, including migrants, asylum-seekers, and agricultural workers.
The report said that the police investigated 32 suspected traffickers (38 in 2017); 26 suspects and a company for sex trafficking and six for forced labour, including four for forced begging (29 suspects for sex trafficking, five for forced labour, and four for both sex and labour trafficking in 2017).
The government also investigated eight suspects for forced marriage (four in 2017), which authorities considered to be trafficking under their law. The government prosecuted 30 defendants (three in 2017), 27 defendants and two companies for sex trafficking and three for forced labour and 16 defendants for forced marriage. Courts convicted three traffickers prosecuted under the trafficking article with other offences, including money laundering, exploitation of prostitution, and maintaining a brothel (eight in 2017 and one in 2016). Courts also convicted one perpetrator for forced marriage.
According to the report, the government maintained victim protection efforts and it identified 31 victims (27 victims in 2017); 21 victims of sex trafficking, eight victims of both sex trafficking and forced labour, and two victims of forced labour (18 victims of sex trafficking, eight victims of forced labour, and one victim of both sex trafficking and forced labour in 2017); 30 female victims and one male victim (21 female victims and six males in 2017); no child victims (one victim was a boy in 2017).
The government also identified five victims of forced marriage.
Victims identified in Cyprus in 2018 were from Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, The Gambia, India, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
According to the Report, traffickers subject women, primarily from Eastern Europe, Vietnam, India, and sub-Saharan Africa, to sex trafficking. Sex trafficking, the report said, occurs in private apartments and hotels, on the street, and within commercial sex outlets in Cyprus, including bars, pubs, coffee shops, and cabarets. Traffickers recruit some female sex trafficking victims with false promises of marriage or work as barmaids or hostesses. Traffickers also subject foreign migrant workers – primarily from South and Southeast Asia – to forced labour in agriculture.
The report also showed that migrant workers subjected to labour trafficking are recruited by employment agencies and enter the country on short-term work permits; after the permits expire, they are often subjected to debt-based coercion, threats, and withholding of pay and documents. Domestic workers from India, Nepal, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka are vulnerable to forced labour, the report said.