A total of 98 people were trafficked in Cyprus between 2019 and 2022, ranging from sexual and labour exploitation to forced marriages, an interior ministry report revealed on Wednesday.

The report also showed that 24 people had been sentenced for such offences.

Of the 98 victims, men accounted for 24 and women 65, in addition to nine minors.

Thirty three were sexually exploited, 26 were exploited in the workplace, 12 were for carrying out crimes, eight for forced marriages, two for begging, two for illegal adoption and 15 for combined sexual and labour exploitation.

Victims were primarily Romanian, Egyptian, Cypriot, Bulgarian, Cameroonian and Nepalese.

Despite an increasing number of reports for all types of exploitation, the number of victims identified has decreased, according to the report.

“Cyprus, due to its geographical location, is the first point of entry of many immigrants to Europe and is therefore a destination country for victims of trafficking in human beings. Experience shows that sexual exploitation and labour exploitation are the most common forms of human trafficking in Cyprus,” it said.

From 2020 onwards, there has been a recorded decrease in human trafficking for forced marriages and labour exploitation, however, the number of people trafficked to carry out criminal acts has increased, the report said.

In a strategy report for 2023-2026, the ministry said women and children form the majority of human trafficking victims for sexual exploitation, while migrants make up the largest number of victims for forced labour.

The crimes primarily take place in agriculture, construction, domestic work and the sex industry.

The government outlined a four-pillar plan to combat trafficking. The first pillar concerns increasing prevention measures along with reducing the risk of becoming a victim.

According to the plan, the latest GRETA report says Cyprus’ authorities must strengthen efforts to combat labour exploitation, for instance by increasing on-site inspections and revise the legislative framework to allow domestic workers to change employer without risking their stay on the island.

The ministry highlighted one of the goals is to increase social awareness for all forms of trafficking and improve training for professionals.

Where the second pillar is concerned on fighting crime, a primary goal is better training for judges and prosecutors to ensure that human trafficking offences do not get replaced with lesser crimes.

The third pillar is focused on helping victims integrate back into society ensuring access to justice, better protection to asylum-seekers who are more likely to be exploited, and ensuring victims that take criminals to court are adequately protected, as are their family members.

Lastly, the fourth pillar focuses on better exchange of information between different countries, as well as different services within the country.