NICOSIA – The United States’ annual human trafficking report said that Cyprus’ government had made “key achievements” in dealing with human trafficking and upgraded its standing one notch.
US Ambassador Judith Garber lauded the work of anti-trafficking forces in the country, a member of the European Union, the July report noted that human smugglers were convicted for the first time in three years.
It highlighted that more social workers were hired and arrangements were made for foreign national victims to return to Cyprus to testify, among other accomplishments, The Cyprus Mail reported.
The Justice Ministry admitted that a previous report – covering the period from April 2020 until March 2021 – found shortcomings in efforts to combat trafficking, leading to Cyprus being downgraded in 2021.
The new report said that 10 human traffickers were convicted, four for sex trafficking and six for forced labor although judges cut the sentence of one trafficker to 8 years, two to 2 years and two to 20 months in jail.
The lack of convictions was one of the main reasons why Cyprus was previously downgraded and the report said the sentences for the traffickers were too light, four getting 3-year suspended sentences and another fined 14,950 euros ($15,239.46) avoiding jail time.
It cautioned that: “Such lenient sentences undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable, weakened deterrence, created potential security and safety concerns for victims, and were not equal to the seriousness of the crime.”
Human trafficking victims in Cyprus came from a wide array of countries, including the Congo, Egypt, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, and Syria. In previous years, victims were also from Cameroon, China, Czechia, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Moldova, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
The report explained that traffickers subject women, primarily from Eastern Europe, South and Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, to sex trafficking. in private apartments and hotels, on the street, and in bars, pubs, coffee shops, massage parlors, and cabarets, sex available there.
“Traffickers exploit short-term tourist visas available to Ukrainian and Russian nationals to recruit young women for sex trafficking in bars and private establishments and recruit some female sex trafficking victims with false promises of marriage or work as barmaids or hostesses,” the report added.
Justice Minister Stephie Drakou said an anti-trafficking hotline at number 1497 has been available since March 2021 to report incidents or find out more information about the crime, the paper said.