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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                           

Republic of Cyprus

The area of the Republic of Cyprus under government control has a market economy dominated by the service sector, which accounts for 78% of GDP. Tourism, financial services, and real estate are the most important sectors. Erratic growth rates over the past decade reflect the economy's reliance on tourism, which often fluctuates with political instability in the region and economic conditions in Western Europe. Nevertheless, the economy in the area under government control has grown at a rate well above the EU average since 2000.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Cyprus

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.

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.   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Cyprus.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

Republic of Cyprus Police Department
Country code: 357-



Damning report on Cyprus flesh trade [PDF]

Jacqueline Theodoulou, Cyprus Mail, December 2, 2007

[accessed 31 January 2011]

Cyprus authorities have again come under the international spotlight for their inability to effectively combat human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women.  Under the headline “The worst record in Europe for human trafficking”, the Financial Times newspaper reported on the problem in Cyprus this week, with statements by a priest from the Russian Church, father Savvas Michaelides.  The cleric claimed that the state was well aware of the sexual exploitation suffered by many women but issued ‘artiste’ entry permits without giving it second thought.

Yelena told the paper that women in the cabaret she worked at were being held hostage and under constant observation by the owner and his men.  She said she had come to Cyprus believing she was going to work in a cafeteria. But upon her arrival, she was taken straight to the cabaret and forced to have sex with customers at a price.  Painting an even grimmer picture, Yelena added that women who resisted their owners’ orders were subjected to threats and even beatings.  Finally, she claimed that the police seemed to be afraid of cabaret owners, which was why the problem was being fixed.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Report by the OSCE Acting Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings following the official visit to Cyprus 10-12 September 2018

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, SEC.GAL/110/19, 5 June 2019

[accessed 7 June 2019]

Identification, referral and assistance for victims of trafficking

25.The  absence  of  comprehensive  data  makes  it  difficult  to  assess  the  exact  scope  and  magnitude of trafficking in human beings in Cyprus. Yet, available data collected and information provided during the visit from both Cypriots authorities and civil society organizations,  indicate  the  existence  of  various  forms  of  human  trafficking  in  the  country. Cyprus is a destination country for trafficking of foreign women for sexual exploitation,  thus  anti-trafficking  efforts  have  mainly  focused  on  trafficking  for  sexual  exploitation.  While  in  the  past  the  majority  of  victims  in  Cyprus  were  trafficked  from  countries  outside  of  the  EU,  however,  a  change  made  related  to  the  provisions  regulating  the  so-called  entertainment  visa12  has  reportedly  shifted  the  pattern  of  origin  countries  to  other  EU  countries  being  targeted  by  traffickers.  Nevertheless,  international  reports  suggest  that  women  of  Ukrainian  nationality continue  to  be  trafficked  for  prostitution  purposes  on  false  promises  to  work  as  barmaids or hostesses.

28.Reportedly, sham marriages are an emerging form of exploitation in Cyprus affecting mainly,  but  not  only,  EU  nationals  who  are  trafficked  to  marry  third  country  nationals  to  facilitate  acquisition  of  citizenship.  There  have  been  some  cases  of  internal  trafficking  of  Cypriot  women  for  forced  marriage  with  third  country  nationals.  To  this  end,  the  Acting  Co-ordinator  recommends  the  Cypriot  authorities  to continue their efforts to identify cases of this form of human trafficking.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cyprus

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 4 June 2021]


Forced labor occurred primarily in agriculture and in domestic work. Foreign migrant workers, children, and asylum seekers were particularly vulnerable, according to NGOs. Employers reportedly forced foreign workers, primarily from Eastern Europe and East and South Asia, to work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, for very low wages and in unsuitable living conditions.


Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance inspectors were responsible for enforcing child labor laws and did so effectively. The Social Welfare Services Department of the ministry and the commissioner for the rights of the child could also investigate suspected cases of exploitation of children at work.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 23 July 2020]


The legal framework generally protects workers against exploitative conditions of employment, and the government has made genuine progress in combating human trafficking. However, persistent problems include a lack of resources for labor inspectors and illegally low pay for undocumented migrant workers. Migrant workers and asylum seekers remain vulnerable to sexual exploitation and forced labor. The serial murders exposed in 2019 prompted a broader public discussion concerning the difficult conditions that many migrant domestic workers face in Cyprus.

Sex trade thrives in Cyprus despite visa reforms

Agence France-Presse AFP, Nicosia,17 October 2010

[accessed 31 January 2011]

But experts in the field say Cyprus's abolition of artiste visas -- around 3,000 were issued in 2007 -- has made barely any difference at all, instead moving the problem elsewhere, mostly to bars and massage parlours.   "The truth is that two years ago they sold girls with artiste visas, and today they sell them with work visas," said Androulla Henriques, vice president of ACESS-Suisse, an organisation combating sexual exploitation.

They changed the name of the visa, the name of the contract, but the situation hasn't changed: the women are still here, and the risk of trafficking also.

Scrapping artiste visas is not enough

Alexia Saoulli, Cyprus Mail, September 18, 2008

[accessed 31 January 2019]

Abolishing artiste visas would do little to combat the problem of human trafficking for sexual exploitation, the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS) said yesterday.  Although MIGS welcomed the government decision to do away with special visas for cabaret women, it pointed out the decision failed to provide concrete solutions to the problem.  MIGS said the reform merely introduced a more uniform visa policy that effectively involved a change in terminology and the transfer of responsibly from the Interior Ministry to the Labour Ministry.

But MIGS responded: “If the government’s objective is to combat human trafficking effectively, particularly trafficking in women for sexual exploitation, the state must stop issuing visas to individuals – citizens of third countries – under any regime to work in high-risk areas.”

The phenomenon of trafficking for sexual exploitation had taken on enormous proportions and the fact that the government’s decision to abolish artiste visas did not combat human trafficking was particularly worrying, MIGS said.

The wrong approach on human trafficking

Cyprus Mail, May 5, 2008

[accessed 31 January 2011]

A more sensible approach would be for the authorities to safeguard the rights of the women employed by the cabarets. They do not enjoy the rights of other workers – they are made to sign contracts that deprive them of basic rights, their passports are held by their employers and their every movement is monitored by the cabaret’s henchmen. It is this despicable treatment of foreign women that needs to be stopped.

Close down the brothels in the north !

Source: Cyprus Mail

[accessed 31 January 2011]

“We have no laws to prevent human trafficking and no legal deterrents,” Erk said. She added that people generally viewed what happened in night clubs simply as prostitution, and were mostly unaware that the 300-plus women working in them were victims of human traffickers who made vast amounts of money by forcing the women into modern-day slavery.  Erk was at pains to explain the differences between human smuggling and trafficking, the latter being where people are brought into a country to face exploitation of their sexuality or physical labour. The phenomenon was widespread in the north Cyprus sex trade, she said, because women brought to the island were kept in prison-like conditions, had their passports confiscated, and were burdened with debt on their arrival – something which rendered the women indentured labourers who worked “inhumanly long hours”. All these factors constituted violations of the UN’s human rights charter on human trafficking, she said.

Campaign seeks to highlight sex abuse of women

Alexia Saoulli, Cyprus Mail, December 11, 2007

[accessed 6 November 2010]

Myth: These women are prostitutes.

Reality: The victims are forced into prostitution, abused, raped and psychological blackmailed and often their human traffickers handle them in such a way that it appears they willingly prostitute.

Myth: These women know the working conditions before they come to Cyprus.

Reality: The women often come to Cyprus under false pretences of good employment for a good salary that will give them a way out and a chance for a better life. Most of the time these promises do not reveal the extent of the exploitation such as their limited freedom, the confiscation of their travel documents, and the number of men they have to offer services to.

Myth: These women choose easy money.

Reality: Many victims do not want to make easy money but have limited access to financial resources for themselves and their dependents and so look for a job to survive. They often come from very poor families and are educated but cannot find employment in their own countries. In many cases the traffickers tell them they are indebted to them and for many months they have to offer services without payment to pay off their ‘debts’ to exploiters.

Myth: These women have free movement and can leave.

Reality: In most cases the women have no or limited freedom of movement and are watched by their traffickers. They are normally accompanied by their employers, live in their workplace and not allowed to live alone. Where the women appear to have ‘freedom of movement’ they have reach the point where they are under traffickers’ control. It is very hard for them to leave as they and their families are threatened and blackmailed, they are afraid of deportation, of the debts they owe their traffickers and the limited support they get from authorities in Cyprus.

Myth: These women can easily report their abuse to authorities.

Reality: The victims are afraid of their traffickers and so with difficulty go to police because they believe their exploiters are well connected. The way they are handled by authorities also does little to encourage them to report the abuse and they believe they can’t escape and don’t know where to turn.

Council of Europe trafficking convention enters into force

Council of Europe , 25 October 2007


[accessed 31 January 2011]

In an important move forward in the fight against human trafficking, on 24 October Cyprus became the tenth country to ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.

It is the only international law that provides all trafficked people with guaranteed minimum standards of protection, including at least 30 days to stay in the country to receive:

o    Emergency medical assistance

o    Safe housing

o    Legal advice

House priority to overhaul human trafficking laws

Jacqueline Theodoulou, Cyprus Mail, June 5, 2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the bill should be passed into law as soon as possible in order to rectify the image Cyprus has built up regarding human trafficking.  “The opinion that has been created abroad is that we do not care about the issue of human trafficking,” he said.  He pointed out that Cyprus did not yet have a shelter for trafficking victims, something the island is being repeatedly pressured over by the EU.

Rights information leaflet for women

Alexia Saoulli, Cyprus Mail, 2008

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Cabaret artistes and barmaids are often ignorant of their rights, allowing them to be sexually, psychologically and physically abused by their employers, will now more readily have access to such information.

The leaflet clearly states that women who are exploited, sexually or otherwise, or forced into prostitution, are entitled to protection and support as well as arrangements for financial and psychological support. They also have the right to file charges against their employer and/or anyone else who exploits them and to ask for compensation due to violation of their rights.
Other rights include a bank account in the employee’s own name, in which her salary must be deposited each month while she retains booklet in her possession. The employer has no right to deduct from her salary the value of her airfare, fees he paid to his agent or any other expenses he incurred for her arrival and employment in Cyprus.

Cyprus is a flesh trade destination

Alexia Saoulli, Cyprus Mail, 2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Cyprus is a country of destination not transit, for victims of sexual exploitation, a senior police officer said yesterday.  Inspector Rita Superman said the majority of victims were from the former Soviet Union and the Philippines.

She said: "In 2004, 66 victims were identified, with the majority from the Ukraine and Moldova. In 2005, 42 victims were identified again the majority of whom were from the Ukraine and Moldova. In 2006, following the largest police campaign to deal with the phenomenon, 81 victims of sexual exploitation were found, again from the same countries."  Of the victims identified in 2006, three had come to Cyprus as tourists, three as housemaids, three as students, five were asylum seekers, 19 worked in bars, and the remaining 47 worked in cabarets, she said.

Police training on human trafficking

Leo Leonidou, Cyprus Mail, 2008

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Justice Minister Sophoclis Sophocleous yesterday spoke of his determination to eliminate the trafficking of women.  He said that in Cyprus there were currently 1,200 artistes, 20 agents and 120 cabarets. “You can draw your own conclusions,” he said.

US Steps In To Rescue Girl From Prostitution In The North

Cyprus Mail, March 30, 2005

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

The girl was reportedly being sexually exploited by a cabaret owner in the north. Her parents were alerted to her plight when she began calling them from mobile phones.  According to reports, the girl had been forced to engage in sexual activities with customers.

A Modern Form Of Slavery

Leo Leonidou, Cyprus Mail, 2008

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

In June last year, for the first time, the US put Cyprus on a watch list of countries that lacked effort in combating human trafficking.  Although the problem has been rampant on the island for well over a decade, US embassy officials said they did not have enough evidence until recently to include the island on its ‘Trafficking in Persons’ (TIP) report, which was first launched in 2003.

Treated like pieces of meat

Sofia Kannas, Cyprus Mail, October 30, 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

I truly believe that for it’s size there isn’t another country in Europe with so many women working as prostitutes,” he adds, shaking his head.  “It still distresses me greatly.”

One girl who came to the refuge after just a few days on the job has particularly stuck in her mind.  “I asked her what she needed when she arrived here, expecting her to say perhaps a sandwich or a drink, but she said all she wanted was to sleep. I was surprised until I learned what her typical 24 hours entailed.  “She had to be at the cabaret for 6.30pm and until 3am she would have to dance and entertain clients, most of who wanted more than a dance. Then she would be expected to spend the night in a hotel with a client, until around 7 or 8am.  “But I thought surely she must have been able to sleep properly after that?  “‘No,’ she said. ‘I would grab a couple of hours sleep until 11am. Then I had to be downstairs, in a room with some arcade games and a couple of sofas. There were men there supposedly playing games but in fact they would look us up and down and pick one of us and we’d have to go upstairs and have sex with them. This went on until the afternoon. After that we had time to ‘rest’ and get ready for the next night’s work.’

Concluding Observations Of The Committee On The Rights Of The Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 6 June 2003

[accessed 31 January 2011]

[55] The Committee welcomes the enactment in 2000 of the Law on the Combating of Trafficking of Persons and Sexual Exploitation of Minors and the Protection of Witnesses Law of 2001 making specific provision for the protection of child witnesses. While noting that the State party does not consider that problems relating to trafficking or other forms of sexual exploitation exist, the Committee remains concerned that such problems may remain “hidden” and that the authorities may be unaware of them.  In particular, the Committee refers to the concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography that Cyprus is being used as a transit point for trafficking of young women, including minors.

The Protection Project - Cyprus [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[Last accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - According to government estimates, more than 1,000 foreign artistes arrive every 6 months to work in cabarets in Cyprus. During any given year, approximately 3,400 foreign artistes are employed in Cyprus. Although not all foreign artistes are victims of trafficking, a government report concluded that thousands of women who had arrived legally to work as artistes in cabarets were, through various forms of pressure and coercion by their employers, prostituted; were living in desperate conditions; and had suffered human rights violations. The majority of the cabaret artists in Cyprus are young women in their 20s, but some are younger. Some have children, some arrive in Cyprus to earn money for their families and help their children, and some work to pay for their studies.

All of these women arrive in Cyprus in a similar way—by responding to newspaper or employment agency advertisements inviting young women to work as cabaret dancers or as barmaids in cabarets, nightclubs, and bars on the island. Many mistakenly trust seemingly legitimate, sympathetic, and knowledgeable employment recruiters. Others are deceived by their acquaintances, even childhood friends. 

They learn the true nature of their occupations after arriving on the island. Many foreign cabaret dancers live lives of abuse and violence. At a minimum, they are deceived about the exact nature of their employment, sold by impresarios to cabaret owners, paid only a small fraction of the client’s fee or given no payment at all for a sexual transaction, and have little freedom of movement. They are often raped and beaten until they submit to performing a sexual service. Their passports are taken away, leaving them little avenue for escape or assistance. Although not all are forced into prostitution, most women experience sexual abuse and other forms of physical violence at the hands of the cabaret owners or their employees and friends. Those women who are not forced into prostitution might be obliged to serve drinks topless or engage in consumatsia. Consumatsia is a practice intended to induce a client to buy alcoholic drinks—both for himself and for the woman—so as to increase the profit to the establishment where she is working. It involves having a young woman working in the cabaret or bar provide a service to the client such as having an informal conversation with a client, performing a striptease, or caressing him. Not all cabarets engage in such blatant violations against their workers, but firsthand accounts of abuse from women who have escaped from the cabarets are widespread. Often, cabaret owners gradually move the artistes from legitimate tasks to more exploitive conditions.


2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 20 March 2019]

[accessed 25 June 2019]


Forced labor occurred primarily in the agriculture sector. Police investigated cases of forced labor among men and women working on farms. Foreign migrant workers, children, and asylum seekers were particularly vulnerable. Employers forced foreign workers, primarily from Eastern Europe and East and South Asia, to work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, for very low wages and in unsuitable living conditions. In 2016 police identified two victims of labor trafficking. Employers often retained a portion of foreign workers’ salaries as payment for accommodations. There have been isolated cases of Romani parents forcing their children to beg.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The country was both a destination and transit point for persons being trafficked for sexual exploitation, and authorities were aware of and generally tolerated the situation. The country was a destination for women trafficked from Eastern Europe, primarily Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Russia, Belarus, and Bulgaria. There were no reliable statistics on the number of trafficking victims; however, 33 victims pressed charges during the year. Foreign women working as artistes or barmaids were vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. In some cases women reportedly were forced to surrender their passports, perform sexual services for clients, or were not paid their full salaries.

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