Cyprus is a source and destination country for men and women who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Victims of trafficking identified in Cyprus are from Cyprus, India, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Ukraine, Turkey, and Vietnam. Sex trafficking increasingly occurs in private apartments and hotels as well as within commercial sex trade outlets in Cyprus, including bars, pubs, coffee shops, and cabarets. Foreign migrant workers and asylum seekers from Eastern Europe, Asia, and some countries in Africa are subjected to forced labor within construction, agriculture, and domestic work. Some migrant workers recruited by employment agencies and entering the country on short-term work permits are often subjected to debt bondage, threats, and withholding of pay and documents once the work permit expires. NGOs report that 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. During the reporting period, the government significantly increased the numbers of trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. The government improved protection by allowing victims to remain in Cyprus on humanitarian grounds after trials. The government also expanded the anti-trafficking police unit and added a forensic psychologist to conduct victim-sensitive interviews. However, improvement in the initial stages of law enforcement activity are not yet fully reflected in prosecution and court proceedings. The vast majority of offenders continued to be convicted under statutes that prescribe penalties less stringent than those prescribed by the anti-trafficking law. The government has yet to convict an individual for the crime of human trafficking using its 2007 law.
Recommendations for Cyprus: Improve efforts to vigorously prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders, including officials who are complicit in trafficking; continue to train judges to ensure robust application of the anti-trafficking law and to encourage punishment commensurate with the seriousness of the crime; consider the use of expert witness testimony in prosecutions of trafficking offenders; formalize the national referral mechanism to provide a practical guide that clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of frontline responders, respective ministries, and NGOs; 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; increase efforts to provide specialized and systematic training to officials to improve identification of victims of labor trafficking; improve case management services for trafficking victims; ensure that victims of trafficking are adequately informed of their rights, protected against intimidation, and assisted during lengthy criminal proceedings; and leverage the existing network of health workers to identify possible victims of trafficking by providing specialized training.
The Government of Cyprus improved its efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, though the punishments imposed on convicted trafficking offenders remained weak. Cyprus prohibits both sex and labor trafficking through its Law 87(I) of 2007, which also contains protection measures for victims. Prescribed penalties for sex trafficking are up to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as abduction. The government investigated 47 new cases of suspected trafficking in persons in 2012, a significant increase compared to 18 investigations in 2011 and 29 investigations in 2010. Forty involved sex trafficking and seven involved labor trafficking. The government prosecuted 29 trafficking cases in 2012, involving 60 individual defendants. Twenty traffickers were convicted in 2012, an increase over the 10 prosecuted and convicted in 2011, though the majority of offenders in 2012 were ultimately convicted under non-trafficking statutes and received lenient sentences ranging from fines up to two years’ imprisonment. NGOs and officials noted concerns of misapplication of the trafficking law in court; judges demanded corroborating evidence beyond what was required by the law. Observers reported that prosecutors failed to prepare victims adequately to testify, leaving victims subject to secondary victimization.
In 2012, the government co-funded specialized anti-trafficking training for public prosecutors, social workers, and judges regarding best practices in prosecution of human trafficking cases, use of expert witness testimony, and a focus on understanding of and sensitivity to the psychological state of victims. The government co-funded participation in a training organized by the Government of Moldova on international cooperation in combatting human trafficking. 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, though a deputy chief of the Aliens and Immigration police unit who was acquitted in the last reporting period for alleged involvement in human trafficking and witness intimidation was dismissed from the force during this year. This special police constable was charged for sexual exploitation, procuration, and living on the earnings of prostitution. This case was pending trial at the end of the reporting period.
The government maintained efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period, though case management services to victims of trafficking needed improvement. The government identified 34 victims of trafficking in 2012 compared with 32 in 2011. Thirteen of the 34 victims identified during the reporting period were men; 18 of the 34 identified victims were subjected to labor trafficking. Authorities did not identify any child victims of trafficking in 2012. The government referred all of the identified victims to the social welfare office for assistance. Twenty-two victims stayed at the government-operated shelter for female trafficking victims 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. The government spent the equivalent of approximately $353,700 in 2012 to operate the trafficking shelter, compared with $416,500 in 2011. The government provided the equivalent of approximately $318,600 in public assistance to victims of trafficking who chose to stay in private apartments and were entitled to a rent subsidy and monthly allowance. This was an increase from the equivalent of approximately $300,300 provided in 2011. In practice, NGOs reported substantial delays in issuance of monthly public allowance checks to victims, which left victims indebted to landlords. Government case management services were inadequate, impeding victims’ timely renewal of residency and work permits. The Government of Cyprus did not help victims identify appropriate, affordable housing or employment. Victims had the right to work, receive free medical, legal, and psychological care, receive police protection, use free interpretation services, and access vocational training but lack of directives on coordination between ministries and specific responsibilities of officials to identify and assist victims of trafficking led to gaps in the accessibility to and provision of these services.
The government gave all 34 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 of trafficking be repatriated at the completion of legal proceedings, the police conducted a risk assessment for each victim prior to repatriation. Five victims of trafficking whose safety was assessed to be at risk were issued extensions of residence permits on humanitarian grounds and remained in Cyprus. One victim was granted permanent residence and one victim was granted refugee status. The government issued a manual and a pocket-sized operational guide on how to identify and assist victims of trafficking to police and immigration officers. The government encouraged victims of trafficking to assist in the investigation and prosecution of alleged traffickers. The anti-trafficking police unit added psychologists to its staff to conduct victim-sensitive interviews with potential witnesses before taking an official statement. All 34 victims identified in 2012 assisted law enforcement. Four victims visited their home countries and returned to Cyprus to testify in judicial proceedings during the reporting period. The government signed an agreement during the reporting period with the IOM to begin anti-trafficking projects and facilitate the safe repatriation of victims of trafficking. Undocumented workers who complained of a labor dispute or exploitation to the labor department reportedly faced a high risk of being deported by immigration authorities. An NGO reported a case in which a labor trafficking victim whose documents and wages were withheld by the employer was deported before a trafficking investigation could be initiated. There were no reports of victims being prosecuted for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being subjected to human trafficking in 2012.
The Government of Cyprus continued modest efforts to prevent trafficking in 2012. Immigration officers at passport control continued to provide potential victims with an information card with basic information on trafficking and an emergency telephone number for assistance. In cooperation with NGOs, the government continued to conduct anti-trafficking presentations at high schools and army camps. Presentations for soldiers focused on sex trafficking and targeted potential clients of commercial sex acts. The Ministry of Education included human trafficking in its 2012-2013 curricula, made funding available to universities that wished to organize seminars on trafficking, distributed an information booklet, and organized several seminars to educate teachers on human trafficking. The multidisciplinary coordinating group to combat trafficking was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the government’s 2010-2012 national action plan. The 2013-2015 national action plan was adopted in April 2013. The anti-trafficking law was amended during the reporting period to increase the number of NGOs participating in the group. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $107,800 for the multidisciplinary group to cover the cost of information campaigns, participation in international trainings, hosting international experts in Cyprus, funding for NGOs, and implementation of some actions under the national action plan. During the reporting period, a law came into effect allowing the government to revoke the license of an employment agency if a person responsible for the agency, a director, or owner is convicted for any offense under the anti-trafficking law. The government did not make specific efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government issued 176 “performing artists” work permits during the reporting period, including renewals, compared with 339 issued in 2011. The government issued 156 “bartender/barmaid” work permits compared with 246 in 2011. Fifty-two were issued to men and 98 were issued to women.
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 continues to be a zone of impunity for human trafficking. The area is a destination for women increasingly from Central Asia, as well as Eastern Europe and Africa, who are subjected to forced prostitution in night clubs that are licensed and regulated by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Men and women are subjected to conditions of forced labor in industrial, construction, agriculture, 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 issued permits for domestic work are vulnerable to forced labor. A significant number of women from Turkey enter the “TRNC” on three-month tourist or student visas and enter prostitution in apartments in Nicosia, Kyrenia, and Famagusta. Migrants and refugees are also at risk for sexual exploitation.
In 2012, 40 night clubs and three pubs operated in the “TRNC” for which authorities issued 1,121 hostess and 24 barmaid six-month work permits. The majority of permit holders came from Moldova and Ukraine, as well as 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 authorities deported 389 women who curtailed their contracts without screening for trafficking. There was a reported increase in the number of websites advertising sexual services to tourists and posting reviews by clients of nightclubs. While prostitution is illegal, authorities were complicit in the industry and made no efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts. Police continued to retain passports upon arrival of women working in night clubs. The “law” that governs night clubs prohibits foreign women from living on-site 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 “TRNC.” An anti-trafficking amendment to the “criminal code” was pending approval by “parliament” at the end of the reporting period. The “TRNC” did not provide any specialized training for officials on how to identify or investigate human trafficking. Turkish Cypriot authorities did not keep statistics on law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders. However, the “attorney general’s office” reported it prosecuted a few trafficking-related cases involving falsified passports that resulted in penalties of 12 to 18 months’ imprisonment. 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 imprisonment. Authorities do not enforce the “law” stipulating that night clubs may only provide entertainment such as dance performances. Very few night club owners, pimps, or clients have been prosecuted for prostitution-related charges. Limited police raids on nightclubs result in arrests of low-level managers, waiters, and probable 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 allocated no 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 five 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 immediately deport foreign women who wish to leave their employer. Foreign women arrested for prostitution were immediately detained and deported to Turkey within 24 hours, regardless of country of origin. 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. According to human rights NGOs, police have been placing material witnesses in other working 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.
The “TRNC” does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is 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 alternatives to deportation for victims of trafficking; and acknowledge and take steps to address conditions of forced labor.