The Government of Cyprus fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, continuing to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts, the US State Department said in its Trafficking in Persons report 2019 published on Thursday.
As a result, The Republic of Cyprus remained on Tier 1.
But the report described Turkish occupied north Cyprus as a zone of impunity for human trafficking. “Turkish Cypriot authorities do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so,” the report said.
In the section on the areas administered by the Republic of Cyprus, the report says that its efforts included prosecuting more traffickers and increasing funds to the government-run shelter.
The government strengthened child protection measures by opening a children’s house to provide support services to child victims and allocating funds to an NGO to operate a day care center for children of trafficking victims, it added.
The government also strengthened prevention efforts by admitting four NGOs into the Multidisciplinary Coordinating Group and commissioning a study to identify gaps in prosecutions.
Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not convict any traffickers for sex trafficking or forced labour and court proceedings continued to face delays, it added.
Administrative issues, particularly within the Social Welfare Service, hindered victim assistance measures, such as slow responses to referrals of potential trafficking victims and delays in financial assistance.
In its recommendations the report listed the following:
- Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers under Law 60(I) and impose significant prison terms on convicted traffickers.
- Reduce delays in accessing assistance, including rental disbursements and financial assistance.
- Respond to referrals of potential trafficking victims in a timely manner and increase access to support for victims identified outside of business hours of support service providers.
- Proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations, including migrants, asylum-seekers, and agricultural workers.
- Provide legal tools and capacity for police to collect sufficient evidence.
- Reduce delays in court proceedings.
- Strengthen the capacity of the Labour Inspectorate to identify and refer victims of forced labour.
- Improve victim-centered investigations and prosecutions and implement witness protection measures when necessary.
- Adopt a national action plan.
- Develop a robust monitoring and evaluation framework for anti-trafficking policies and efforts.
Turkish occupied north Cyprus
If the area were to be assigned a formal ranking in this report, it would be Tier 3, it said.
“The area administered by Turkish Cypriots continues to be a zone of impunity for human trafficking. Turkish Cypriot authorities do not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so. Turkish Cypriots did not keep statistics on law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders. The area administered by Turkish Cypriots lacked shelters and social, economic, and psychological services for victims,” the report said.
Local observers reported authorities were complicit in facilitating trafficking, and “police” continued to retain passports upon arrival of women working in nightclubs.
Turkish Cypriot authorities did not allocate funding to anti-trafficking efforts, “police” did not receive training to identify victims, and authorities provided no protection to victims. “Police” confiscated passports of foreign women working in nightclubs and issued them identity cards, reportedly to protect them from abuse by nightclub owners who confiscated passports. Observers reported women preferred to keep their passports, but “police” convinced them to render passports to avoid deportation. Foreign victims who voiced discontent about the treatment they received were routinely deported.
Its recommendations for Turkish Cypriot authorities include:
- Enact “legislation” prohibiting all forms of human trafficking.
- Screen for trafficking victims, including in nightclubs and pubs.
- Increase transparency in the regulation of nightclubs and promote awareness among clients and the public about force, fraud, and coercion used to compel prostitution.
- Provide funding to NGO shelters and care services for the protection of victims; investigate, prosecute, and convict “officials” complicit in trafficking.
- Provide alternatives to deportation for victims of trafficking.
- Acknowledge and take steps to address conditions of forced labour, including among domestic workers.
For full report