Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Cyprus

CYPRUS (Tier 2 Watch List)

Cyprus is a destination country for a large number of women trafficked from the Philippines, Russia, Moldova, Hungary, Ukraine, Greece, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and the Dominican Republic for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Women are also trafficked from Colombia, Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom. Most victims of trafficking are fraudulently recruited to Cyprus on three-month "artiste" work permits to work in the cabaret industry or on tourist visas to work in massage parlors disguised as private apartments. More limited numbers of foreign women work in pubs under the "barmaid" employment category. Police report that trafficking in Cyprus has become more hidden, with women increasingly exploited in massage parlors and private apartments.

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. The Government of Cyprus has been placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year for failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking during the reporting period. Although it passed a new trafficking law and opened a government trafficking shelter, these efforts are outweighed by its failure to show tangible and critically needed progress in the areas of law enforcement, victim protection and the prevention of trafficking.

Recommendations for Cyprus: Follow through with plans to abolish, or greatly restrict use of the artiste work permit – a well-known conduit for trafficking; establish standard operating procedures to protect and assist victims in its new trafficking shelter; develop and launch a comprehensive demand reduction campaign specifically aimed at clients and the larger public to reduce wide-spread misconceptions about trafficking and the cabaret industry; dedicate more resources to its anti-trafficking unit; and improve the quality of trafficking prosecutions to secure convictions and appropriate punishments for traffickers.


The Government of Cyprus improved its legislative tools to combat trafficking during the year, though its overall anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts declined. On July 13, 2007, the government passed comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation that criminalizes all forms of trafficking; the law also contains protection and support measures for victims. Although the penalties prescribed for sexual exploitation can range up to 20 years' imprisonment, these penalties are not commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes such as rape, for which the maximum sentence is life in prison. The government's anti-trafficking unit – with a staff of three – remains under-equipped and under-funded and unable to adequately investigate trafficking offenses. In April 2008, the police chief appointed 20 investigators to partner with the anti-trafficking unit. During the reporting period, there was an overall decline in the number of cases investigated, police raids, undercover investigations, and traffickers convicted. Investigations significantly declined during the reporting period; police launched only 27 investigations in 2007, compared to 60 in 2006. Of the 27, eight of the cases are still under investigation, one was dropped, one was otherwise disposed of, and 17 were sent to court. Of the 17 cases, 11 are still pending trial, four were suspended, and two were dismissed. Of the 36 prosecutions pending at the end of 2006, eight of the cases resulted in convictions, 14 in acquittals, three were dismissed by the courts, one was withdrawn, one was otherwise disposed of, and nine are still pending trial. Eleven traffickers were convicted with sentences ranging from four months imprisonment to three and a half years. Nine traffickers are still awaiting trial; the government acquitted 14 suspects, dismissed three, and the two remaining cases were withdrawn. NGOs charge that trafficking-related corruption among law enforcement officials continued to hinder the government's antitrafficking efforts. During the year, the government prosecuted seven police officers for their involvement in two separate trafficking-related cases.


The Government of Cyprus demonstrated improvements in its infrastructure to protect and assist victims; however, much remains to be done to ensure that more victims in Cyprus receive assistance and protection. In November 2007, it officially opened its first state-owned trafficking shelter; the shelter assisted 27 victims from November 2007 through April 2008. In 2007, authorities provided a total of 87 victims with short-term shelter and other forms of assistance. However, efforts to identify victims in Cyprus remained inadequate; the number of identified victims declined from 79 in 2006 to 40 in 2007. Operational issues in its trafficking shelter must be addressed to ensure quality care for victims. All 40 of the victims identified by the government assisted law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of their traffickers; nine left the country without testifying.


The government failed to take adequate responsibility for its significant trafficking problem and implement steps to prevent incidents of trafficking during the year. Despite promises in its 2005 National Action Plan to abolish the "artiste" work permit, it has not taken steps to eliminate this employment category; Cyprus remains the only member of the European Union to have such a permit, a well-known tool used to traffic foreign victims. Although it reduced by 23 percent the overall number of artiste work permits issued, this figure does not account for potential trafficking victims arriving from EU countries who do not require such permits to work in an EU member state. No "barmaid" permits were issued in the reporting period, a 100 percent decline from the previous year. While the government allotted over $60,000 for a demand reduction campaign, no campaign was carried out in the reporting period. During the reporting period, the head of the police anti-trafficking unit made one television appearance to discuss the problem of trafficking, spoke at a trafficking film festival, and conducted police training.

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 trafficked from countries in Eastern and Central Europe, including Moldova, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Georgia, and Belarus for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. During the reporting period, women from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the Philippines, Kenya, Romania, and Nigeria received "artiste" work permits in the "TRNC."

The area administered by Turkish Cypriots in 2007 drafted a bill that specifically prohibits trafficking in persons. Awareness of trafficking somewhat increased, but authorities continued to confuse trafficking with smuggling throughout the reporting period. All potential trafficking cases were tried on the charges of "living off the earnings of prostitution" or "encouraging prostitution." Persons convicted under these "laws" can receive up to two years' imprisonment. This is not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave crimes in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, such as rape. "TRNC" authorities reported arresting 55 people for 40 prostitution related cases, and three people received prison sentences. In 2007, 1,308 "artiste" and nine "barmaid" work permits were issued to foreign women working in 39 nightclubs and three pubs, and as of March 2008, 352 foreign women were working in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. In 2007, authorities deported 316 women who wished to curtail their nightclub contracts. Reportedly, authorities hold the travel documents for foreign women in the cabaret industry in the "TRNC" and police corruption remained a concern. The anti-trafficking hotline established in 2005 does not adequately refer victims for assistance.

Recommendations for Turkish Cypriot authorities: Pass the draft legislation that specifically prohibits all severe forms of trafficking; provide training for law enforcement and other front-line responders on victim identification techniques, including the key exploitative difference between trafficking and smuggling; and educate the larger public about trafficking occurring within the cabaret industry.

Cyprus tier ranking by year


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