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2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Cyprus

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Cyprus, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cd132.html [accessed 23 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

CYPRUS (Tier 2 Watch List)

Cyprus is a destination country for men and women who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The government has identified trafficking victims from Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Cameroon. Sex trafficking occurs within commercial sex industry outlets in Cyprus, including bars, pubs, coffee shops, cabarets, and massage parlors. Foreign migrant workers and asylum seekers from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as from some countries in Africa, are subjected to forced labor within construction and agricultural sectors, as well as the domestic work sector. A 2011 report on labor trafficking in Cyprus found that migrant workers brought into the country under a legal work program are highly vulnerable to trafficking, particularly because of insufficient protections and oversight of these temporary workers; the report also noted that employers violate migrant worker contracts and rights, force them to live in inhuman conditions, and may abuse them. NGOs continue to report that Roma children, as well as children of migrants and asylum seekers, remain especially vulnerable to prostitution and other forms of trafficking.

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 failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period; therefore, Cyprus is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year. Despite convicting an increased number of trafficking offenders, two of which resulted in significant penalties, the government treated trafficking offenders leniently in 2011. Furthermore, the number of investigations declined in 2011, and the government did not make critically needed improvements in protections for trafficking victims. For example, the government failed to increase inspections of commercial sex establishments as well as in construction and agricultural sectors to ensure proactive identification of potential victims. Finally, the government's failure to vigorously prosecute and convict government employees for trafficking-related complicity continued to be a significant obstacle to the government's ability to combat its trafficking problem.

Recommendations for Cyprus: Undertake greater measures to vigorously prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders, including officials who are complicit in trafficking; ensure proactive identification of all potential trafficking victims in Cyprus by developing and implementing for all frontline responders a comprehensive guide that outlines identification, referral, and protection procedures in vulnerable sectors including commercial sex, tourism, agriculture, and domestic work; bolster the care to victims provided by the Social Welfare Services by establishing formalized agreements with NGOs; increase oversight and outreach to foreign domestic migrant workers, including a consideration of an amendment to the requirement that ties them to their employer in Cyprus; continue to monitor the application of the visa regimes for performing artists, bar-maids, students, and other potential visa categories that might be used by traffickers; increase the role of the Independent Authority to proactively investigate reports of trafficking-related complicity; and ensure that victims are responsibly repatriated and systematically offered legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face possible retribution and hardship.

Prosecution

The Government of Cyprus maintained its efforts in the prosecution of suspected traffickers, but convictions and punishment lagged behind. Cyprus prohibits both sex and labor trafficking through its Law 87 (I) of 2007, which also contains protection measures for victims. Although penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment are prescribed for sex trafficking, these penalties are not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated 18 new suspected cases of trafficking in 2011, a decrease from 29 suspected trafficking cases in 2010. The majority of trafficking offenders in Cyprus, convicted under non-trafficking-specific statutes, continue to receive penalties far below the available penalties under the 2007 trafficking law. As noted by a 2011 Council of Europe Report by the Group of Experts on Trafficking (GRETA), the government has yet to successfully convict an individual of the crime of trafficking using its 2007 law. A 2011 research report noted a disproportionately low number of convictions related to the large number of prosecutions in the country. The government fully prosecuted and convicted ten trafficking offenders during the reporting period, an increase over 2010 when four persons were convicted. While the majority of sentences for these convictions ranged from a fine to 22 months' imprisonment, there were two sentences handed down during the reporting period that marked a significant increase over previous years: one for 13 years and one for 11 years. In the December 2011 case involving a Vietnamese woman subjected to domestic servitude, the suspects were charged under the trafficking law principally with sexual exploitation (which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years), and with rape, kidnapping, and possession of a weapon. The suspects ultimately were convicted of rape, kidnapping, and other offenses. According to court transcripts, the employer who received the 13-year sentence "sold" the woman for sex to two individuals after she complained about her workload and asked to leave; those two individuals subsequently raped the victim. The employer's wife received a 60-day sentence in the case for lying to the police to protect her husband. During the reporting period, the police academy provided specialized anti-trafficking training to 80 police officers, and the government co-sponsored with an international organization an anti-trafficking training for three prosecutors, 22 police officers, and 50 judges in October 2011. The government devoted an additional officer to its specialized anti-trafficking unit, bringing its total staffing to six officers, although the unit remained understaffed.

The government has not begun the prosecution of a forced labor case from November 2009 when it investigated involving 95 Romanians in the construction sector. During the reporting period, the Attorney General closed the case because victims were unwilling to testify. However, Cypriot police submitted a request to re-open the case after actively liaising with Romanian counterparts to facilitate the return of some of the Romanian workers to Cyprus to testify against the alleged trafficker. The request is pending. The prime suspect has since been re-arrested for a different case and is a murder suspect; he remains free on bail related to that case. In August 2011, an NGO reported that the Attorney General closed an investigation of a German diplomat for allegedly subjecting a domestic worker to forced labor; the Nepalese housekeeper reported to police that she was compelled to work excessive hours. A 2011 research report on labor trafficking in Cyprus noted a reluctance to charge employers, "who might be respectable citizens," with charges of exploitation and trafficking. Furthermore, the 2011 report on labor trafficking, issued by the Re-integration Center for Migrant Workers, found a tendency to reduce labor trafficking cases to labor disputes or press charges for lesser offenses. According to local observers, the alleged trafficking complicity of public officials continued to significantly impede the government's anti-trafficking efforts. NGOs continued to report direct and indirect involvement of law enforcement officers and senior government officials in trafficking. The government took some initial yet inadequate steps to address this problem during the reporting period. In 2011, the government began prosecution of the assistant chief of the Aliens and Immigration Unit for his suspected involvement in trafficking. This unit has direct responsibility for the oversight and inspection of all bars, cabarets, and other commercial sex establishments in Cyprus. NGOs had repeatedly reported concerns about this officer and asked for his transfer. During the year, police requested the officer be placed in pre-trial detention; while released on bail, he had allegedly intimidated the witnesses in the case. In February 2012, the court acquitted the officer and two other suspects after the witnesses recanted their testimony. The government suspended the assistant chief from his duties and launched an internal disciplinary case against him. Another member of the police force previously reported as being prosecuted for trafficking-related corruption was forced to leave the police force. His trial is still pending. The government has yet to convict or criminally punish a public official for complicity in trafficking.

Protection

The Government of Cyprus made limited improvements in its efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. It failed to implement measures to systematically identify trafficking victims, and the number of victims officially identified by Cypriot authorities continued to decline. Country experts reported that Cyprus's widespread trafficking problem continued to increase and noted an overall reduction in investigations in locales where human trafficking likely occurs. The government identified a total of 32 trafficking victims during the reporting period, including 16 victims of forced labor and 16 sex trafficking victims. This is a decline from 43 trafficking victims identified in 2010. The government allocated the equivalent of $409,336 for the continued operation of its trafficking shelter in 2011. Adult victims were allowed to leave the shelter unchaperoned, provided they first met with the police and social services to be informed of potential risks. The government cared for a total of 28 trafficking victims in the shelter in 2011, compared with 26 in 2010. The government provided a total of the equivalent of $300,360 in rent subsidies and monthly allowances to 39 other victims who chose to stay in private apartments or hotels. NGOs continue to report that the shelter does not sufficiently provide services necessary for victims' psychosocial recovery.

The government has yet to formalize or initiate procedures for the safe repatriation of trafficking victims. Anti-trafficking police reported, however, that they conducted risk assessments prior to a victim's repatriation to their country of origin. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations of trafficking cases and reported that 28 identified trafficking victims cooperated with law enforcement in 2011; all 28 were granted residence permits. The recent GRETA report cited inadequate protections for victim witnesses stating that once they end their cooperation with authorities, they lose their residence permit and are returned to their countries of origin. The government provided protection for victims that chose not to participate in investigations or prosecutions and granted temporary residency to one of these victims; two others who were EU nationals received assistance and remain in Cyprus; and a fourth was repatriated.

Prevention

The government demonstrated some efforts to prevent trafficking in Cyprus in 2011; however, overall progress on implementation of the government's 2010-12 National Action Plan (NAP) continued to lag. The government provided the equivalent of $7,390 to an NGO to conduct an anti-trafficking awareness campaign during the reporting period. Passport officials report they continue to distribute information cards available in seven languages to potential trafficking victims arriving at the airport, although this account is disputed by an NGO. The government submitted on March 30, 2011 a draft bill introducing stricter criteria to prevent the fraudulent recruitment of foreign workers. On September 27, the Ministerial Committee for the Employment of Third Country nationals decided to ban the entry of Myanmar and Ethiopian national domestic workers, citing their particular vulnerability to trafficking. In August 2011, the government printed posters and other materials aimed at general public awareness. According to the GRETA Report, the government began work to draft a National Action Plan for trafficked children. As in previous years, local experts asserted that continued and unchecked high demand for commercial sex acts on the island sustains a market for traffickers and that the majority of clients of the sex industry are Greek Cypriot men. A Republic of Cyprus interagency effort, in cooperation with an NGO, incorporated the issue of demand for commercial sex into anti-trafficking lectures at universities and military installations. The government reported it screened applications for foreign "performing artists," the work permit category that replaced the previous artiste visa that had been rife with abuse. The reported issuances of such "performing artists" permits was 339, compared with 460 in 2010. Of the former, 82 permits were first-time issuances and the others were renewals of existing permits. The government issued 246 "barmaid" and "barman" work permits in 2011, compared with 323 in the previous year. Of these, 132 were issued to first-time workers in Cyprus, and the others were renewals of existing permits. Of the 132, 65 workers are male and 67 female. NGOs reported the abolishment of the artiste visa made little actual impact in Cyprus, instead shifting the problem elsewhere to bars, massage parlors and coffee shops.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

The northern area of Cyprus is administered by Turkish Cypriots; the area has declared itself the "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 is a destination for women originating from Eastern European countries and subjected to conditions of forced prostitution. East European and Asian men and women also are subjected to conditions of forced labor. According to an NGO, labor trafficking victims originating mainly from China, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Vietnam were exploited in industrial, construction, agriculture, and domestic work, as well as in restaurants and retail sectors. According to local authorities, women working in nightclubs and pubs who received "hostess" or "barmaid" work permits in 2011 came overwhelmingly from Moldova, followed by Ukraine. Smaller numbers of women came from Morocco, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kenya, and Paraguay. This area continued to be a zone of impunity for trafficking.

In 2011, some Turkish Cypriot officials admitted that sex trafficking is a problem; pressure from civil society has resulted in some increased awareness and discussion of trafficking. However, Turkish Cypriot officials continued to fail to identify formally any trafficking victims, as no formal definition of "victim" has been instituted. Most Turkish Cypriot authorities continue to deny that trafficking is a significant problem in the area, posing a serious challenge to assuring any protection for women from trafficking or the prosecution of their traffickers. Local observers continue to report a significant trafficking problem with foreign women being deprived of their freedom in nightclubs.

Although the authorities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots drafted an anti-trafficking bill in 2007, it has yet to make any progress on this legislation. Turkish Cypriot authorities provided no specialized training on how to identify, investigate, or prosecute trafficking and most authorities continued to confuse trafficking with prostitution and smuggling. Sex trafficking crimes can potentially be prosecuted on charges of "living off the earnings of prostitution" or "encouraging prostitution," but these charges are difficult to support in court. Persons convicted under these laws can receive up to two years' imprisonment. These penalties are not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Forced labor can potentially be prosecuted as a misdemeanor for "any person who unlawfully compels any person to labor against the will of that person" and can receive up to one year imprisonment. NGOs report that organized crime elements are behind the ownership and management of some of the nightclubs in the north. Further, local observers report that local police are complicit with traffickers and are directly involved in the trafficking. Authorities hold the travel documents of foreign women working in nightclubs.

Authorities do not have specialized procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups or to refer victims to service providers, nor do they allocate any funding to anti-trafficking efforts or provide any specialized care or shelter for victims. Authorities reported that the Night Club Commission increased its inspections within commercial sex establishments where women with hostess visas reside. However, deportation continued to be the most common form of "rescue" the authorities use for women who complain about their employment at nightclubs and who ask for help from the local police. Although prostitution is illegal in the area, female nightclub employees working as hostesses are required to submit to weekly health checks for sexually transmitted infection screening, suggesting tacit approval by the authorities of the prostitution industry. If arrested on prostitution charges, a foreign worker is usually deported within 24 hours. The Turkish Cypriot authorities issued 994 "hostess" work permits and 21 "barmaid" work permits in 2011. Authorities in 2010 reported issuing 977 "hostess" work permits, including renewals, and 16 "barmaid" permits during the previous reporting period. Turkish Cypriot authorities reported an increase in inspections of labor sectors and trained inspectors to improve working conditions. Authorities formally identified no labor trafficking victims because no formal definition of trafficking exists.

Turkish Cypriot authorities did not conduct any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns during the reporting period.

The "TRNC" does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and does not appear to be making significant efforts to do so. If the "TRNC" were assigned a formal ranking in this report, it would likely be Tier 3.

Recommendations for Turkish Cypriot authorities: Pass legislation specifically prohibiting all forms of human trafficking; provide training for police and other front-line responders on victim identification techniques to locate trafficking victims within commercial sex and labor sectors; create incentives for law enforcement and inspectors to proactively investigate trafficking; establish specialized protection and assistance services and a shelter; and educate clients and the larger public about trafficking that generally takes place within nightclubs and other sectors in the area.

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