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. If the “TRNC” were to be assigned a formal ranking in this report, it would be Tier 3. 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. Turkish Cypriots did not keep statistics on law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders. The area administered by Turkish Cypriots lacked shelters 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 via-a-vis trafficking and stipulated nightclubs may only provide entertainment such as dance performances. “Parliament” passed the 2000 UN TIP Protocol in April 2018. Additionally, trafficking-related cases could 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 2017, “police” arrested the owner of a nightclub and tried him for “encouraging prostitution” and “living off the earnings of prostitution,” and in October 2018, the “Ministry of Interior (MOI)” prevented five nightclub owners with criminal records from recruiting women on hostess and barmaid “permits.” Additionally, in February 2018, the Mayor of Nicosia Turkish Municipality closed four nightclubs, citing the absence of established “legal” frameworks and reports of sexual exploitation, and continued to deny “permit” renewals to the four nightclubs. After a “court” denied the nightclub owners’ lawsuit against the municipality, two of the “nightclubs” moved to other localities and the other two ceased operating. 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” did not receive training 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. The “government” reportedly allowed trafficking victims serving as material witnesses against a former employer 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 deported all foreign victims. If the police requested a victim to stay to serve as a witness, the “law” required the “police” to provide temporary accommodation; however, the only shelter for trafficking victims closed in July 2016.
During the reporting period, “TRNC” authorities issued 1,605 six-month “hostess” and “barmaid” “work permits” for individuals working in nightclubs and two pubs operating in the north (1,084 in 2017). As of March 2019, there were 319 women working under such “permits” (400 as of January 2018). Nightclub owners hired female college students 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 Belarus, Moldova, Morocco, 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 638 women (331 in 2017) 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 prostitution. 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 “MOI” regarding operating licenses, changes to employee quotas, and the need for intervention at a particular establishment. The “Nightclub Commission” reportedly inspected approximately five nightclubs every two weeks and followed up on complaints; however, in practice, inspections focus on the sanitation of kitchens and interviews with women working in nightclubs always took place in front of nightclub bodyguards or staff, preventing potential trafficking victims from speaking freely. 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. Authorities deported 40 female nightclub workers after having sought help from the authorities due to complaints regarding their working conditions (47 in 2017). During the reporting period, the “TRNC” issued 3,143 work permits to domestic workers (945 in 2017). Turkish Cypriots made no efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in “TRNC.” Traffickers subject women from Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa whom traffickers subject to sex trafficking in nightclubs licensed and regulated by the Turkish Cypriot administration. Nightclubs provide a source of tax revenue for the Turkish Cypriot administration; media reports in 2015 estimated nightclub owners paid between 20 million and 30 million Turkish lira ($3.79 million and $5.68 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 China, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. 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. Romani 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 that a number of women, some of whom may be trafficking victims, entered the “TRNC” on three-month tourist or student visas and engaged in prostitution in apartments in north Nicosia, Kyrenia, and Famagusta. Migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees, and their children are also at risk for sexual exploitation.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TURKISH CYPRIOT AUTHORITIES
Enact “legislation” prohibiting all forms of human trafficking. • Screen for trafficking victims, including in 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 funding to NGO shelters and care services for the protection of victims; investigate, prosecute, and convict “officials” complicit in trafficking. • Provide alternatives to deportation for victims of trafficking. • Acknowledge and take steps to address conditions of forced labor, including among domestic workers.