Cyprus is a source and destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. In previous years, victims of trafficking identified in Cyprus were primarily from Cyprus, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Georgia, India, Kenya, Latvia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Ukraine. Women, primarily from Eastern Europe, Vietnam, India, and sub-Saharan Africa, are subjected to sex trafficking. Sex trafficking occurs in private apartments and hotels, and within commercial sex trade outlets in Cyprus, including bars, pubs, coffee shops, and cabarets. Some victims of sex trafficking were recruited with promises of marriage or employment as barmaids and hostesses in cafeterias. Victims are often subjected to debt bondage, withholding of pay and documents, and threats against their families. Foreign migrant workers—primarily Indian and Romanian nationals—are subjected to forced labor in agriculture. Migrant workers subjected to labor trafficking are recruited by employment agencies and enter the country on short-term work permits, after which they are often subjected to debt bondage, threats, and withholding of pay and documents once the work permit expires. In 2013, there was an increase in identified victims of labor trafficking from India. Asylum seekers from Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe are subjected to forced labor within construction, agriculture, and domestic work. Unaccompanied children, children of migrants, and asylum seekers remain especially vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor.
The Government of Cyprus does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Cyprus is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. In April 2014, the government enacted a law implementing EU Directive 2011/36/EU, strengthening the legal framework for combating trafficking. The government adopted a new national action plan to combat trafficking for 2013-15. The government expanded the anti-trafficking police unit to eight persons by adding a forensic psychologist, a psychologist, a criminologist, and a social worker. Nevertheless, there was a significant decrease in all law enforcement efforts; investigations decreased by 68 percent, prosecutions decreased by 70 percent, and convictions decreased by 55 percent. The majority of offenders continued to be convicted under statutes that prescribe penalties less stringent than those prescribed by the anti-trafficking law. The government identified fewer victims of trafficking, and one victim was deported not in accordance with law.
Recommendations for Cyprus:
Improve efforts to vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including officials who are complicit in trafficking; strengthen procedures to prevent trafficking; increase efforts to provide specialized and systematic training to government officials to improve identification of victims of labor trafficking; improve assistance and support for trafficking victims; ensure that victims of trafficking are adequately informed of their rights, protected against intimidation and deportation, and assisted during lengthy criminal proceedings; coordinate efforts and measures among government and civil society members to address the support for victims of trafficking; leverage the existing network of health workers to identify possible victims of trafficking by providing specialized training; further train judges and prosecutors to ensure robust application of the anti-trafficking law and to encourage punishments commensurate with the seriousness of the crime; continue increasing use of expert witness testimony in prosecutions of trafficking offenses and ensure victims are adequately protected during court proceedings; formalize the national referral mechanism to provide a practical guide that clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of front-line responders, respective ministries, and NGOs; raise awareness of trafficking and victim identification to police and migration authorities and provide training on victim identification; continue to monitor visa regimes for performing artists, students, bar-maids, domestic and agricultural workers, and other categories that present potential misuse by traffickers and increase screening for trafficking victimization among visa holders in vulnerable sectors and appoint an external evaluator.
The Government of Cyprus demonstrated decreased efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, and the punishments imposed on convicted trafficking offenders remained weak; all efforts decreased by more than half compared to 2012. Cyprus prohibits all forms of sex and labor trafficking through its Law 87(I) of 2007, which also contains protection measures for victims. Prescribed penalties for trafficking of adults are up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and up to 20 years’ imprisonment for trafficking of children, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as abduction. In April 2014, the government enacted Law 60(I) of 2014, implementing EU Directive 2011/36/EU. The government investigated 15 new cases of suspected trafficking in persons in 2013, a significant decrease compared to 47 investigations in 2012; 13 involved sex trafficking and two involved forced labor. The government prosecuted seven trafficking cases in 2013, involving 22 individual defendants. Six cases remain under investigation, and two were classified as “otherwise disposed of” and were not prosecuted. These prosecutions represent a sharp decrease from 2012, when the government prosecuted 29 cases involving 60 defendants. Nine traffickers were convicted in 2013, a decrease from 20 convictions in 2012. Of the nine traffickers, two were convicted under the trafficking law for labor exploitation; the remaining seven were ultimately convicted under non-trafficking statutes. Offenders received lenient sentences ranging from fines up to 18 months’ imprisonment. The anti-trafficking police unit provided oversight throughout the course of an investigation; however, the court system’s mistreatment of victim witnesses, and lengthy trial procedures resulted in limited numbers of convictions. The government lacked coordination of tracking trafficking cases as they move through the judicial system. It established a mechanism through which labor complaints were reviewed and potential forced labor cases were forwarded to the police and the social welfare department for further action; however, NGOs reported that labor complaints were rarely treated as potential trafficking cases. The anti-trafficking police unit maintained an up-to-date database with comprehensive information on all cases investigated and prosecuted.
In 2013, the government co-funded training for members of the Attorney General’s Office, police, social workers, and psychologists regarding best practices in trafficking investigations and prosecutions, use of expert witness testimony, and victim support and assistance. It also co-organized a workshop for multiple government departments, including prosecutors, migration, and social welfare service officers on a taskforce approach to human trafficking. Authorities provided training to Cypriot consular staff on identifying trafficking indicators during the visa application process. The police responded to a request from the Hungarian government concerning a trafficking case. The Government of Cyprus did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during this reporting period. The government reported that the 2011 case reported in previous TIP Reports involving a special police constable charged for sexual exploitation, procuration, and living on the earnings of prostitution was still pending trial.
The government maintained efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government provided benefits and assistance services to trafficking victims despite the economic crisis and cuts in benefits in other categories. There was no specific case management or assistance provided for victims to identify appropriate, affordable housing or employment. The government identified 25 victims of trafficking in 2013, a decrease from 34 in 2012. Eight of the 25 victims identified were men; 12 of the 25 identified victims were subjected to labor trafficking. Although the police, in cooperation with NGOs and the asylum service, interviewed 14 unaccompanied minors who were potential trafficking victims, authorities did not identify any child victims in 2013. Most victims of forced labor were referred to the police by NGOs. The government referred all identified victims to the social welfare office for assistance. Female victims of sex trafficking were accommodated at the government-operated shelter in Nicosia. Victims were permitted to stay for up to one month in the shelter for a reflection period—time in which victims can recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement—and were allowed to leave the shelter unchaperoned and at will. Authorities accommodated male sex trafficking victims in hotels paid for by the government; male and female victims of labor trafficking stayed in apartments provided by an NGO and received rent subsidy from the government.
Case management and benefit services to victims of trafficking did not improve. Victims were denied access to health care due to the government not renewing visas in a timely manner. NGOs reported substantial delays in issuance of monthly public allowance checks to some victims, which left victims unable to cover basic needs. There was no specific assistance provided for victims to identify appropriate, affordable housing.
The government spent the equivalent of approximately $275,000 to operate the trafficking shelter, compared with the equivalent of approximately $353,700 in 2012. The government provided the equivalent of approximately $358,400 in public assistance to victims of trafficking who chose to stay in private apartments and were entitled to a rent subsidy and monthly allowance, compared with the equivalent of approximately $318,600 in 2012. NGOs reported insensitive treatment of victims by shelter staff, insufficient vocational training, and inadequately furnished apartments. One victim was separated from her baby in accordance with shelter regulations. Victims had the right to work, medical, legal, and psychological care, police protection, free translation and interpretation services, and protection from deportation. They also had eligibility for state vocational and other training programs, the ability to change sectors of employment, and the right to receive public allowances. These protections are provided in practice, but a lack of directives on coordination between ministries and specific responsibilities of officials to identify and assist victims of trafficking led reportedly to gaps and delays in services and support provided.
The government gave all 23 victims who cooperated with law enforcement renewable temporary residence permits of six months, with the right to work in Cyprus. The government reported that, although legislation stipulates that victims be repatriated at the completion of legal proceedings, the police conducted a risk assessment for each victim prior to repatriation. Two victims whose safety was assessed to be at risk were issued residence permits on humanitarian grounds and remained in Cyprus. Two victims were granted refugee status, and one victim applied for asylum. The government extended the residence and work permit of three victims after the completion or interruption of court proceedings. In July 2013, the government arrested and deported an identified victim of trafficking for remaining in Cyprus after her residence permit expired. Contrary to law, the victim was deported without the mandatory risk assessment conducted. The government has since allowed for her return. During the reporting period, 23 victims assisted law enforcement. Nine victims visited their home countries and returned to Cyprus to testify in judicial proceedings during the reporting period. There were no reports of victims being prosecuted for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to human trafficking in 2013.
The Government of Cyprus improved efforts to prevent trafficking in 2013. It established a working group to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the action plan and an independent external evaluator position to monitor and evaluate all anti-trafficking actions, a mechanism equivalent to a national rapporteur. During the reporting period, the government approved a new National Anti-Trafficking Action Plan for 2013 to 2015; the multidisciplinary coordinating group to combat trafficking is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the implementation of this plan. NGOs reported that cooperation between NGOs and the coordinating group for the implementation of the action plan improved with the inclusion of two additional NGOs. Despite these mechanisms, the government agencies charged with implementing anti-trafficking programs need better coordination with regard to identifying victims, providing victim services, and tracking trafficking cases as they move through the judicial system. The government sponsored a radio campaign targeting the demand for both sex and labor trafficking. In cooperation with NGOs, the government continued to conduct anti-trafficking presentations for health educators and the military. It also included a segment on trafficking in the curriculum for students aged 15-18 years. The government continued to print and distribute booklets aimed at potential trafficking victims on the assistance available to them. It collaborated with NGOs to update the national referral mechanism.
Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots
The northern area of Cyprus is administered by Turkish Cypriots. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriots proclaimed the area the independent “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”). The United States does not recognize the “TRNC,” nor does any other country except Turkey. The area administered by Turkish Cypriots continues to be a zone of impunity for human trafficking. The area is increasingly a destination for women from Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa who are subjected to forced prostitution in night clubs that are licensed and regulated by Turkish Cypriots. Men and women are subjected to forced labor in industrial, construction, agriculture, domestic work, restaurant, and retail sectors. Victims of labor trafficking are controlled through debt bondage, threats of deportation, restriction of movement, and inhumane living and working conditions. Women who are issued permits for domestic work are vulnerable to forced labor. A number of women enter the “TRNC” from Turkey on three-month tourist or student visas and engage in prostitution in apartments in north Nicosia, Kyrenia, and Famagusta. Migrants, refugees, and their children are also at risk for sexual exploitation. An NGO reported that the entry upon arrival in the north of some women permitted to work in night clubs is not always recorded.
In 2013, 39 night clubs and two pubs operated in the north for which authorities issued 1,284 hostess and 33 barmaid six-month work permits. The majority of permit holders came from Moldova and Ukraine, while others came from Morocco, Kenya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Paraguay, Georgia, Tunisia, Romania, Nigeria, Latvia, Egypt, Armenia, and Tanzania. Women were not permitted to change location once under contract with a night club and Turkish Cypriots deported 495 women who curtailed their contracts without screening for trafficking. While prostitution is illegal, female night club employees are required to submit to biweekly health checks for sexually transmitted infection screening, suggesting tacit approval of the prostitution industry. Turkish Cypriots made no efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts. Local observers report that authorities are complicit in facilitating trafficking and police continue to retain passports upon arrival of women working in night clubs. The “law” that governs night clubs prohibits foreign women from living at their place of employment; however, most women live in group dormitories adjacent to the night clubs, or in other accommodations arranged by the establishment owner. The night clubs operated as “legal” businesses that provided revenue to the “government.”
There is no “law” that prohibits human trafficking in the north. An anti-trafficking amendment to the “criminal code” was tabled, pending expert advice. Turkish Cypriots did not provide any specialized training on how to identify or investigate human trafficking. Turkish Cypriots did not keep statistics on law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders. The “attorney general’s office,” however, reported it prosecuted 15 trafficking-related cases involving falsified passports and illegal entry. Sex trafficking offenders could be prosecuted under non-trafficking “statutes” for “living off the earnings of prostitution of women” or “encouraging prostitution of women.” A misdemeanor offense of “compelling a person to labor against their will” is punishable by one year of imprisonment. Turkish Cypriots did not enforce the “law” stipulating that night clubs may only provide entertainment such as dance performances. During the reporting period, police conducted several raids of night clubs resulting in the arrest of possible victims of trafficking. Authorities do not acknowledge the existence of forced labor. There is no “law” that punishes traffickers who confiscate workers’ passports or documents, change contracts, or withhold wages to subject workers to servitude.
Turkish Cypriot authorities did not allocate funding to anti-trafficking efforts. Police were not trained to identify victims of trafficking, and authorities provided no protection to victims. The lack of anti-trafficking “legislation” and lack of efforts to identify and protect victims indicated that Turkish Cypriot authorities tolerated human trafficking. An NGO that runs a shelter for victims of domestic violence, with no financial support from the authorities, reported helping two potential trafficking victims during the reporting period. Turkish Cypriot authorities do not acknowledge a need for care or shelter for victims of trafficking because police claim to immediately deport foreign women who wish to leave their employer. Some foreign women arrested for prostitution were immediately detained and deported to Turkey, regardless of their country of origin. An NGO reported that victims were interviewed by an attorney at the police station to determine if their request for deportation was valid. Victims of trafficking serving as material witnesses against a former employer are not entitled to find new employment and reside in temporary accommodation arranged by the police. There is no specific shelter for trafficking victims. The Turkish Cypriot authorities do not encourage victims to assist in prosecutions against traffickers, and almost all foreign victims are deported. If a victim is a material witness in a court case against a former employer, they would not be entitled to find other employment, but would be provided with temporary accommodation under police auspices. If a victim requests to return to their home country during that interview, they are required to return to and lodge at the night club until air tickets are purchased. According to a human rights NGO, women awaiting trial are accommodated at nightclubs. Witnesses are not allowed to leave the “TRNC” pending trial and are deported at the conclusion of “legal” proceedings. Turkish Cypriot authorities did not conduct any anti-trafficking awareness activities during the reporting period. Turkish Cypriot authorities made no efforts to reduce demand for forced labor.
Turkish Cypriot authorities do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so. If the “TRNC” were assigned a formal ranking in this report, it would be Tier 3.
Recommendations for Turkish Cypriot authorities:
Enact “legislation” prohibiting all forms of human trafficking; screen for human trafficking victims within 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; provide alternatives to deportation for victims of trafficking; and acknowledge and take steps to address conditions of forced labor.