Human trafficking not only affects a large number of victims, but manifests itself in different forms, Rita Superman, head of the police anti-trafficking unit warned on Friday.
Speaking to Radio Active on the occasion of EU Anti-Trafficking Day, she said that the most common form of trafficking in Cyprus aimed at sexual exploitation. But she said there are also cases of work exploitation where the victims tend to be men, as well as begging.
“The people we see begging are usually victims of organised human trafficking rings. So one message we can give today is do not give money to these people, you are not helping them but the rings which are making money,” she said.
She also said that it was wrong to assume that Cyprus was somehow not affected. “We have already recognised victims who are Cypriots, such as homeless people who recently fell victims of fraud,” she said.
It is easy for someone to become victim either through fraud or exploitation of a vulnerability. “Today we see Cypriots being victimised by very well organised rings so as to enter into marriage with third country nationals,” she said.
The victims tend to be drug users or with a disability and this is of concern, she added.
Superman said that about 50 human trafficking victims are recognised in Cyprus every year. Authorities interview about 200 potential victims annually.
In a written statement, the Interior Ministry which is the national coordinator in the fight against human trafficking noted that because of its geographical position, Cyprus is an entrance point for many migrants to Europe, and by extension a destination for victims of trafficking. “Experience shows that sexual exploitation and exploitation at work are the most common forms of human trafficking in Cyprus,” it added.
The ministry said the state was making every effort to raise awareness among the public and to train public officials so as to speedily identify and deal with trafficking victims.
“Cyprus implements a comprehensive legal and strategic framework to deal with the phenomenon and complies fully with the acquis communautaire and other international conventions,” it added.
Recent amendments to the law which led to a steep increase in penalties for trafficking and exploiting people, including asking for/using services of the victims are a significant development, the ministry said.
Cyprus and other European countries members of the European Crime Prevention Network are also taking part in a prevention campaign on trafficking in human beings.
The main goals are to step up the fight against this crime by informing:
- (potential) victims that they could be or become a victim of THB (trafficking in human beings)
- victims of THB where they can find help, protection and information
- victims of THB that they have EU-wide rights: Assistance & support, Protection, Compensation, Human & labour rights, Reflection period & Residence rights and Reintegration
Trafficking in human beings is a crime that all countries are combating with various actions. It is a crime without borders, that is why European countries, united in the EUCPN and EUROPOL, have joined forces to launch this initiative.
The participating countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Spain.
The campaign ‘#YouHaveRights!’ includes a poster, sticker and video. The material will be distributed at hot spots such as airports, borders, embassies, consular posts, public transportation, malls, fuel stations and social media.