The fight against human trafficking requires international cooperation at all levels and Cyprus actively participates in the international effort to curb the issue, Justice Minister Stephie Dracou said on Tuesday.

Speaking during an event organised by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (Cepol) in Nicosia on the subject, Dracou stressed the importance of international cooperation agreements in the fight against human trafficking, which she called “one of the most serious forms of transnational crime.”

“The participation in the event of countries such as Spain, France, Greece, the Netherlands and of well-known international organisations such as Interpol and Cepol, highlights the importance of the issue, as well as the level of cooperation between national law enforcement authorities and the EU agency aimed at preventing and combating human trafficking.”

Dracou further said that children, women, migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, adding that the phenomenon is in constant evolution and requires close cooperation between countries and agencies.

“Due to its geographical position and the presence of the Green Line, Cyprus is particularly sensitive to human trafficking, a problem that is heavily linked to migration,” she said.

“Refugees and asylum seekers are an easy target for traffickers. Perpetrators approach migrants, especially refugees, in several ways, offering them assistance, transportation, accommodation and work, with the ultimate aim of exploiting them.”

She also said that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has created new ground for human trafficking, making the fight against the issue a top priority for the EU.

“Police in Cyprus are closely cooperating with other EU member states, as well as international anti-crime agencies to combat human trafficking and we are continuously seeking bilateral agreements to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.”

Dracou pointed out that the island has intensified its efforts in recent years, noting that in 2019, the penalties for human trafficking significantly increased and that new laws were promoted to protect victims of human trafficking suffering sexual abuse.

Finally, she expressed confidence that the exchange of views, experiences and best practices among counties participating in efforts to combat human trafficking “would further enrich the fight against the important issue.”