[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

CYPRUS (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Cyprus is a destination country for a large number of women from Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Russia, Latin America, and the Philippines trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Recent trends indicate an increasing number of women trafficked to Cyprus from Latin America, Morocco, and Syria. Source countries for identified victims in 2008 include the Dominican Republic, Romania, Moldova, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Syria, Russia, and Ukraine. Some trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation also occurs. In 2008, most identified victims of sex trafficking were fraudulently recruited to Cyprus on three-month “artiste” work permits to work in the cabaret industry, on “barmaid work permits” to work in pubs, or on tourist visas to work in massage parlors disguised as private apartments. Some victims are trafficked through the area administered by the Turkish Cypriots into the Republic of Cyprus-controlled areas.

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 undertook efforts to prevent trafficking by abolishing its “artiste” category work permit, launching a country-wide general awareness campaign, and dedicating significant resources to the protection and assistance of trafficking victims. Although these steps mark important progress, future assessments of the Cypriot government’s anti-trafficking efforts will consider whether the government has demonstrated more vigorous prosecution efforts and convictions against traffickers to sufficiently punish and deter trafficking in Cyprus. Moreover, future assessments will look to whether the government has taken measures to prevent sex trafficking through misuse of the new “creative artist” and “performance artist” work permits or through an upsurge in issuances of “barmaid” work permits. The government should also implement public awareness campaigns specifically targeting “clients” that comprise the demand for sex trafficking victims.

Recommendations for Cyprus: Ensure safeguards are developed and enforced to restrict potential conduits for trafficking into Cyprus such as the “barmaid” work permits and the new “performing artist” and “creative artist” work permits; vigorously prosecute and seek convictions of trafficking offenders and officials complicit in trafficking; implement new training programs for prosecutors and judges to enhance the quality of trafficking prosecutions to ensure sufficient criminal punishments for traffickers; develop and launch a comprehensive demand reduction campaign specifically aimed at Cypriot clients of prostitution to educate them about the link between prostitution and trafficking; adopt, disseminate, and implement a practical guide outlining the identification and referral and protection of potential trafficking victims to all front-line responders; and demonstrate more consistency in providing financial support to victims.

The Government of Cyprus demonstrated moderate efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders in 2008. The Government of Cyprus prohibits trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor through Law 87 (I)/2007, which also contains protection measures for victims. Although the penalties prescribed for sex trafficking 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. During the reporting period, police investigated and filed charges against 70 persons in 29 suspected trafficking cases, compared to 45 persons charged in 27 suspected trafficking cases filed in 2007. The government initiated prosecution in 21 of these cases in 2008, a slight increase from 17 cases initiated in 2007. However, only two of these 2008 cases were prosecuted to completion; both resulting in acquittals. Of the 31 cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation pending at the end of the previous reporting period, 11 remained in the prosecution phase, 10 resulted in acquittals, five were dismissed, one was suspended, and three remain under investigation. The government obtained only one conviction in 2008, resulting in a two-year sentence. This is a significant decline from eight convictions obtained during the previous reporting period. The Cypriot government in 2008 added an additional member to its three-person police anti-trafficking unit. A court acquitted three officers suspected of trafficking-related complicity in 2008; another case involving four officers remains pending.

The Government of Cyprus undertook significant efforts to protect trafficking victims in 2008. It continued to operate a shelter dedicated for trafficking victims and it provided victims with a minimum one-month reflection period to decide whether or not they want to cooperate in criminal investigations. During the reporting period, the government allocated $132,000 in funding for victim assistance; it also dedicated $249,000 for the government shelter’s operation, as well as $21,873 for an NGO-run shelter in Limassol. All victims are placed under the care of the Department of Social Welfare Services, which provided shelter and assistance to a total of 59 victims during the reporting period; six were victims of labor trafficking, two of whom were men. In 2008, police identified 41 new victims of trafficking. The government shelter housed 28 of these victims; the remaining victims were referred to the NGO shelter or stayed in private apartments. Victims who choose not to stay at the shelter are entitled to a rent subsidy and monthly allowance. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations of trafficking offenders; 37 out of 41 victims identified agreed to assist law enforcement in 2008. The government did not penalize identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. It provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, as the law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status to anyone, including trafficking victims, when their lives or freedom would be threatened; however, during the reporting period no trafficking victims applied for such status.

The Government of Cyprus significantly improved its efforts to prevent trafficking in 2008. In November 2008, the Council of Ministers took the decision to abolish the “artiste” work permit, a well-known conduit for trafficking, and this decision took effect in February 2009. During the reporting period, the government issued 1,906 “artiste” work permits, some of which were re-issuances. However, it issued 526 “barmaid” work permits in 2008, compared to 416 issued in 2007, raising the concern that the barmaid work permit has taken the place of the “artiste” work permit in facilitating sex trafficking to Cyprus. In December 2008, the government launched a public awareness campaign that included pamphlets and posters in government offices, colleges, airports and supermarkets; billboards were placed on main streets and highways. This campaign, however, did not specifically address demand within the context of Cyprus, a measure urgently needed in the country. During the reporting period, the head of the police anti-trafficking unit gave regular lectures to educate new police recruits about trafficking.

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 primarily trafficked from countries in Eastern Europe for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. During the reporting period, the majority of the women who received “artiste” work permits in the “TRNC” were from Moldova and Ukraine. A smaller number included women from Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the Philippines, Kenya, Romania, and Nigeria.

Authorities in the “TRNC” overwhelmingly deny that trafficking is a significant problem in the area, posing a significant challenge to assuring any protection for women from trafficking or the prosecution of their traffickers. “TRNC” authorities identified no trafficking victims during the reporting period.

Although the area administered by Turkish Cypriots drafted an anti-trafficking “bill” in 2007, it has yet to make any progress on this “legislation.” Awareness of trafficking somewhat increased, although the “TRNC” authorities provide no specialized training on trafficking; authorities continued to confuse trafficking with prostitution and smuggling. Trafficking crimes can potentially be prosecuted on charges of “living off the earnings of prostitution” or “encouraging prostitution.” Persons convicted under these “laws” can receive up to two years’ imprisonment. These penalties are not commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, such as rape. “TRNC” authorities reportedly prosecuted nightclub owners and pimps on prostitution-related charges, but provided no statistics on these efforts. Although there are no specific reports of local authorities’ complicity in trafficking, authorities likely tolerate such corruption due to a lack of anti-trafficking “legislation.” Authorities reportedly hold the travel documents for foreign women in the cabaret industry in the “TRNC.”

The “government” does not have specialized procedures in place to identify and refer trafficking victims or allocate any funding to anti-trafficking efforts, nor does it provide any specialized care or shelter for victims. Although prostitution is illegal in the “TRNC,” nightclub employees are required to submit to weekly health checks for STD screening, suggesting tacit “government” condoning of its prostitution industry. If arrested on prostitution charges, a victim is most likely deported within 24 hours. “TRNC” authorities did not conduct any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns during the reporting period.

The “TRNC” does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and does not appear to be making significant efforts to do so. If the “TRNC” were assigned a formal ranking in this report, it would likely be Tier 3.

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; establish specialized protection and assistance services and shelter; and educate clients and the larger public about trafficking occurring within the cabaret industry.