U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Cyprus

Cyprus (Tier 2 Watch List)

Cyprus is primarily a destination country for a large number of women trafficked from Eastern and Central Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Other countries of origin include the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. Traffickers continued to fraudulently recruit victims for work as dancers in cabarets and nightclubs on short-term "artiste" visas, for work in pubs and bars on employment visas, or for illegal work on tourist or student visas. Traffickers often rotated victims between different cabarets in cities throughout Cyprus. There were credible reports of female domestic workers from India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines forced to work excessively long hours and denied proper compensation.

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. Cyprus has been placed on Tier 2 Watch List because of its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to address its serious trafficking for sexual exploitation problem. While there were seven convictions using prostitution and sexual exploitation laws, the government failed to utilize its anti-trafficking legislation during the reporting period. The government did not proactively implement its National Action Plan, nor did it formally open a trafficking shelter. The government slightly decreased the number of "artiste" visas issued in 2005, but failed to fulfill its commitment to abolish this visa category. The government should assign a clear political priority to fighting trafficking immediately. It should start prosecuting trafficking crimes. As promised in the National Action Plan, the government should significantly reduce the number of "artiste" visas and abolish this visa category to prevent further exploitation of trafficking victims in Cyprus. It should produce and launch a national public awareness campaign to reduce demand for trafficking victims in Cyprus. The Cypriot Government should complete, proactively implement, and distribute its standardized handbook for screening and referral of victims and ensure its wide distribution to all foreign workers entering Cyprus.


In 2005, the Government of Cyprus failed to sustain the anti-trafficking law enforcement momentum started in the previous year. The government finalized its proposed laws on trafficking but has not yet introduced them to Parliament; this proposed legislation would abolish the "artiste" visa and expand Cypriot law to include other forms of trafficking. In 2005, the Cypriot police arrested an increased number of traffickers. While the government convicted seven suspects on charges related to prostitution, it was unable to confirm whether a trafficking element was involved. In March 2006, the Council of Ministers introduced amendments to its current immigration law to the House of Representatives, which would harmonize it with EU directives to combat human trafficking. During the reporting period, the government cooperated in five international trafficking investigations and responded to requests for assistance from source countries. During the year the press reported that at least 19 officers have been implicated in corruption cases, at least two of which were related to prostitution or possible trafficking. To combat police corruption, the Council of Ministers appointed an independent body to investigate police corruption in April, 2006, but failed to investigate reports of trafficking-related corruption.


The Government of Cyprus did not demonstrate tangible progress in providing protection and assistance to victims of trafficking in 2005. It fell short of targets established by the government's own National Action Plan. Although the government procured funding, obtained permits and signed a lease for a shelter for trafficking victims, it failed to open it during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking unit informally referred victims to an NGO shelter in Limassol, but the government did not establish a formalized screening and referral process. The government's Welfare Services provided financial aid, counseling and temporary shelter to 36 victims for up to three weeks in subsidized homes for the elderly. Although the planned 2004 standardized internal guidelines on victim identification and referral were completed and sent to all ministries for final review, they have yet to be printed or distributed. The government cooperated with NGOs in preparing the new immigration legislation and handbook. During the reporting period, the police identified 55 victims of trafficking, 42 of whom testified or pressed charges against their traffickers. Identified victims were offered legal alternatives to their removal and were allowed to remain in the country in order to testify. In the absence of a formal screening process, some unidentified victims continued to be at risk of deportation.


The Government of Cyprus made some limited progress in implementing prevention elements of its National Action Plan in 2005. The government printed 60,000 trafficking prevention leaflets in four languages for those entering Cyprus on "artiste" visas, and began distributing these at immigration police offices and at airports. Although the government funded a promised demand oriented public awareness campaign, it has yet to conduct any large scale campaigns to generate public awareness about the role customers play in contributing to trafficking in Cyprus. The government drafted a pamphlet in Greek for all foreign workers entering Cyprus on other work visas, but has yet to print or distribute it. It issued 4,000 new "artiste" visas in 2005, a 13 percent decrease from the previous year.


The northern part of Cyprus is governed by a Turkish Cypriot administration that has declared itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC"). The United States does not recognize it, nor does any other country, except Turkey.

The area administered by Turkish Cypriots is a destination for women trafficked from Eastern and Central Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Reportedly, men were trafficked to work in the construction industry. There are continued indications that it is also used as a transit point for persons trafficked into forced labor into the EU.

The area administered by Turkish Cypriots does not have a law that specifically prohibits trafficking in persons. In 2005, all potential trafficking cases were tried on the charge of "living off the earnings of prostitution." Persons convicted under this law can receive a maximum sentence of two years in prison. This is not commensurate with the penalties for other similar crimes in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, such as rape. Police arrested 25 suspects, prosecuted 16 cases and convicted nine suspects, all of whom paid minor fines. In 2005, 1,031 "artiste" visas were issued to women working in 46 nightclubs, and as of January 2006, 378 foreign women were working in this area. In 2005, immigration police repatriated 150 women who wished to curtail their nightclub contracts. Police corruption remained a problem; in May 2005, two police officers were questioned on suspicion of involvement in a false visa ring but no arrests were made. In 2006, Turkish Cypriots established an anti-trafficking hotline, but have not publicized it. Turkish Cypriots should take proactive steps to train law enforcement and other front-line responders on victim identification techniques, including the key difference between trafficking and smuggling – exploitation.


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