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. Turkish Cypriot authorities do not fully meet 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. Turkish Cypriots did not keep statistics on law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders. The area administered by Turkish Cypriots lacked shelters for victims and social, economic, and psychological services for victims. Local observers reported authorities were complicit in facilitating trafficking, and police continued to retain passports upon arrival of women working in nightclubs. The “Nightclubs and Similar Places of Entertainment Law of 2000” provided the most relevant legal framework vis-à-vis trafficking and stipulated nightclubs may only provide entertainment such as dance performances. Additionally, trafficking-related cases would be tried under the “TRNC criminal code,” which prohibited living off the earnings of prostitution or encouraging prostitution and forced labor. However, Turkish Cypriots rarely enforced this law and rarely prosecuted nightclub owners, bodyguards, or clients. In October 2017, the owner of a “nightclub” was arrested and on trial for “encouraging prostitution” and “living off the earnings of prostitution.” Additionally, in February 2018, the Mayor of Nicosia Turkish Municipality closed four “nightclubs” citing absence of established “legal” frameworks and reports of sexual exploitation. The authorities made no efforts to punish labor recruiters or brokers involved in the recruitment of workers through knowingly fraudulent employment offers or excessive fees for migration or job placement. There was no “law” that punished 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, and authorities provided no protection to victims. Police confiscated passports of foreign women working in nightclubs and issued them identity cards, reportedly to protect them from abuse by nightclub owners who confiscated passports. Observers reported women preferred to keep their passports but police convinced them to render passports to avoid deportation. Foreign victims who voiced discontent about the treatment they received were routinely deported. Trafficking victims serving as material witnesses against a former employer were not entitled to find new employment and resided in temporary accommodation arranged by the police, but experts reported women were accommodated at nightclubs. The Turkish Cypriot authorities did not encourage victims to assist in prosecutions against traffickers, and all foreign victims were deported. If the police requested a victim to stay to serve as a witness, the police were required to provide temporary accommodation; however, the only shelter for trafficking victims closed in July 2016.
During the reporting period, “TRNC” authorities issued 1,084 six-month “hostess” and “barmaid” work permits for individuals working in nightclubs and two pubs operating in the north (1,314 in 2016). As of January 2018, there were 400 women working under such permits (342 as of January 2017). Nightclub owners hired female college students during the reporting period to bypass the cap on the number of employees legally permitted in each club and avoid taxes and monitoring. Observers reported authorities did not consistently document the arrival of women intending to work in nightclubs. Most permit holders came from Moldova, Morocco, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, while others came from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Paraguay, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan. Reportedly some “parliament” members were clientele of the nightclubs. Women were not permitted to change location once under contract with a nightclub, and Turkish Cypriot authorities deported 331 women (445 in 2016) who curtailed their contracts without screening for trafficking. While prostitution is illegal, female nightclub employees were required to submit to weekly health checks for sexually transmitted infections, suggesting recognition and tacit approval of the prostitution industry. Victims reported bodyguards at the nightclubs accompanied them to health and police checks, ensuring they did not share details of their exploitation with law enforcement or doctors. The “law” that governed nightclubs prohibited foreign women from living at their place of employment; however, most women lived in dormitories adjacent to the nightclubs or in other accommodations arranged by the owner. The “Nightclub Commission,” composed of “police” and “government officials” who regulate nightclubs, prepared brochures on employee rights and distributed them to foreign women upon entry. The “Nightclub Commission” met monthly and made recommendations to the “Ministry of Interior” regarding operating licenses, changes to employee quotas, and the need for intervention at a particular establishment. The “Social Services Department” in the “Ministry of Labor” continued to run a hotline for trafficking victims; however, it was inadequately staffed by one operator who had not received any training on trafficking. An expert reported trafficking victims were afraid to call the hotline because they believed it was linked to authorities. Forty-seven female “nightclub” workers were repatriated after having sought help from the authorities due to complaints regarding their working conditions (30 in 2016). During the reporting period, the “TRNC” issued 945 work permits to domestic workers (2,383 in 2016). Turkish Cypriots made no efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.
The “TRNC” is a destination for women from Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa who are subjected to forced prostitution in nightclubs licensed and regulated by the Turkish Cypriot administration. Nightclubs provide a significant source of tax revenue for the Turkish Cypriot administration; media reports estimated nightclub owners pay between 20 and 30 million Turkish lira ($5.3 million and $7.9 million) in taxes annually. This presents a conflict of interest and a deterrent to increased political will to combat trafficking. 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. Labor trafficking victims originate from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, China, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. Migrants, especially those who cross into the Turkish Cypriot community after their work permits in the Republic of Cyprus have expired, are vulnerable to labor trafficking. Roma children and Turkish seasonal workers and their families are also vulnerable to labor exploitation. Women issued permits for domestic work are vulnerable to forced labor. Men and women enrolled as university students, particularly from Sub-Saharan African countries, are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor. As in previous years, observers reported a number of women entered the “TRNC” on three-month tourist or student visas and engaged in prostitution in apartments in north Nicosia, Kyrenia, and Famagusta; some may be trafficking victims. Migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees, and their children are also at risk for sexual exploitation.