Authorities will take additional measures based on the recommendations of the US State Department’s human trafficking report on Cyprus, Justice Minister Anna Koukkides Procopiou said on Wednesday.

Saying that combating human trafficking and supporting the victims of the organised crime is a priority of the current government, the minister commented on the recent US State Department’s annual report on human trafficking. The report acknowledged Cyprus’ sustained efforts in combating the phenomenon by keeping the country on Tier 1 for the period April 2022 to March 2023.

But challenges persist, despite Cyprus meeting the minimum standards and securing convictions.

Among them, is how the government reduced overall funding for victim assistance and failed to disburse financial aid to victims promptly according to the report.

The report also highlighted a decrease in the number of traffickers convicted and defendants prosecuted while it referred to the social welfare services’ delayed response to referrals of potential victims. It further mentioned how judges have not been consistently issuing restitution as part of sentencing, while victims have never received compensation from the established fund.

The new report of the US State Department and especially its recommendations will be seriously studied and additional measures will be taken to implement them where necessary, the minister said.

She stressed that the Office for Combating Trafficking in Persons and all relevant services will continue to evaluate any information and will continue to make every effort to identify victims and perpetrators and bring the latter to justice.

“Trafficking in persons is one of the most serious and complex forms of transnational organised crime that severely affects human rights and human dignity,” a justice ministry statement said.

It added that among the positive developments listed in the report were the identification of more victims, the imposition of stricter penalties, the assistance programme for victims and the conduct of preventive investigations by the Anti-Trafficking Bureau, the statement said. Furthermore, the report highlighted the continuous and regular training of the relevant officers and the operation of a four-digit number and an online platform where the public can anonymously provide or receive information.

In the statement, the minister conveyed the government’s congratulations and thanks to all those the officials involved in the fight against trafficking.

She then called on anyone who may have suspicions or information that the crime of trafficking in persons is being committed, to immediately inform the police, anonymously, through the 1497 telephone line or the online platform.