The ministries of justice, labour and social welfare on Wednesday signed memorandums of cooperation for combatting human trafficking and the protection of victims.

The first memorandum, signed between Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos and Justice Minister Stephie Dracou, will see cooperation between the police and the labour inspection service to prevent and combat modern slavery.

The second, signed by Dracou and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Anastasia Anthousi, provides for a cooperation between the police and the social welfare services for the handling, protection and informing of victims of social trafficking.

Human trafficking is one of the most serious and complex forms of crime that grossly affects human rights and human dignity, and as such is dealt with by the state in line with European and international law.

Speaking to reporters, the three ministers underlined the necessity for interdepartmental coordination and cooperation, with the aim of more effective management of incidents of exploitation and trafficking.

The justice minister thanked her fellow ministers, the chief of police and the officials who worked to make the preparation and signing of the framework possible.

“Our effort over the past year has borne fruit, as we have had nine convictions, four of which are related to labour exploitation,” Dracou said.

“At the same time, we upgraded Cyprus to tier one status in the US State Department’s report for combatting human trafficking.”

The minister assured that “our permanent and unchanging goal is the elimination of trafficking, this extreme form of exploitation and instrumentalisation of victims that offends fundamental human rights, our values and culture”.

For his part, Koushos said that through these memorandums the state is “sending the resounding message of zero tolerance for a serious form of crime such as human trafficking. And this can only be achieved through a coordinated approach”.

Speaking about her deputy ministry’s work, Anthousi said that “as the deputy ministry of social welfare, we stand next to the victims, offering them information, as well as psychological support and medical care services, help with housing, employment and social reintegration”.

She added that in 2022, the social welfare services of the under-secretary general were called to assist in 123 reports, and handled potential victims of trafficking, offering individualised support as needed.