More effective measures need to be adopted in an effort to crack down and eradicate human trafficking, said Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights Protection, Maria Stylianou-Lottides on Tuesday on the occasion of European Anti-Trafficking Day.

According to the commissioner, the most widespread form of trafficking in human beings remains trafficking for sexual exploitation, mainly of women and girls around the world, as well as trafficking for labour exploitation, which mainly affects men.

“Trafficking in human beings is one of the most serious violations of fundamental human rights and the fight against it has been placed at the heart of the European Union’s objectives and policies,” she added.

Cyprus has transposed into national law a number of international legal texts that focus on combating trafficking, Stylianou-Lottides said.

The commissioner noted that the island has drafted an anti-trafficking action plan, established a multidisciplinary coordination group against people trafficking (responsible for policy formulation, measures and coordination of actions to address the problem), and operates a state shelter for the protection of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Cyprus has also signed bilateral agreements with many countries for cooperation in preventing and combating organised crime, including human trafficking, with emphasis on agreements with the countries of origin of the victims.

“Undoubtedly the legislative changes – in recent years – aimed at combating trafficking in persons (increasing sanctions for trafficking in human beings and criminalising the use of sexual services by victims of trafficking) are recognised and welcomed,” Stylianou-Lottides said.

However, she stressed that these efforts must be continued and intensified, particularly in the light of the constantly evolving forms of human trafficking.

“Trafficking in human beings is a global phenomenon. Just last week in France and Greece, two little girls aged 13 and 12 were the new subjects of exploitation of sick people who are among us, next to us, wearing the mask of respectability and the smile of humanity before the monster underneath is revealed,” added Stylianou-Lottides.

“It is our duty to expose them, because until they take the road to punishment, the cooperation of all of us is essential,” she concluded.