Govt Fails To Prosecute Human Traffickers - US
Cyprus is a destination country for men and women who are subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution, and the government has failed to prove that it is increasing efforts to prosecute human traffickers, said the US State Department's latest report on human trafficking.
"Very few prosecutions resulted in traffickers being held accountable in 2010. Further, the government did not convict or sentence any officials complicit in trafficking in Cyprus, which observers allege continued to be a significant problem," says the report.
Although the infamous 'artiste visa' was banned, it was replaced with other visa categories which are exploited by human traffickers to import foreign women into the sex industry. And the government has not yet educated the public about the realities of forced prostitution.
There were 29 cases of suspected human trafficking investigated in 2010, and convictions in only three cases.
"Punishments for these offenders were woefully inadequate: one offender was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment with the suspension of an additional three years’ imprisonment, one was convicted to 12 months in prison, and the two others each received a nine-month sentence," according to the report.
Cyprus authorities haven't yet followed up on three suspects arrested for forcing 95 Romanians into debt labour in the construction industry. All three suspects are free on bail and the assistant chief of the Aliens and Immigration Unit who was arrested for his alleged involvement in trafficking is also free on bail.
The report notes that Bulgarian and Cameroonian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in Cyprus.
The US recommends that Cyprus takes the following measures:
- Undertake greater measures to prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders;
- impose punishments of imprisonment that are commensurate with punishments imposed on other serious criminal offenders;
- aggressively prosecute and seek convictions of any officials complicit in trafficking; implement a guide for all front-line responders – not only for police – outlining identification, referral, and protection procedures for potential trafficking victims;
- improve partnerships with NGOs in protecting and assisting victims; ensure that victims are offered legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face possible retribution and hardship;
- proactively implement the National Action Plan on trafficking; and launch a demand reduction campaign specifically aimed at Cypriot clients of prostitution to educate them about the link between prostitution and trafficking.
The island is ranked on the Tier 2 Watchlist level, on a par with Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh. Tier 2 Watchlist countries are defined as those whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's (TVPA) minimum standards but are making signficant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with them.