Human trafficking raises alarm in divided Cyprus – EURACTIV.com

Cyprus’s frozen battle supplies fertile floor for human traffickers, with circumstances at “alarming” ranges within the EU member state, and the occupied north is taken into account as unhealthy as Afghanistan.

“I love her, but at the same time, she reminds me about my past,” mentioned one Cameroonian trafficking survivor, referring to her younger daughter.

“There was so much abuse during those months,” added the lady in her 20s, who mentioned a shopper rescued her from her ordeal.

“I didn’t die … and God saved me, so I know that He has a plan for my life,” she advised an NGO working with survivors, who requested anonymity to guard her identification.

Last yr the US State Department downgraded Cyprus in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report from Tier 1, the highest-ranking, to Tier 2, citing issues together with protracted court docket proceedings and an absence of convictions.

While the report doesn’t formally rank the occupied Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, solely recognised by Ankara, it says the territory could be in Tier 3 with the worst offenders, together with Afghanistan and North Korea, if it did.

Cyprus has been break up since 1974 after Turkey invaded in response to a Greek-sponsored coup.

And the shortage of progress in resolving the battle shifts consideration and assets away from points like human trafficking, mentioned Nasia Hadjigeorgiou, assistant professor in transitional justice and human rights on the University of Central Lancashire Cyprus.

The stalemate additionally means there is no such thing as a collaboration between legislation enforcement on the 2 sides, Hadjigeorgiou mentioned.

So human trafficking throughout the island is “literally not being dealt with,” she mentioned.

‘Red alarm’

In the north, traffickers are abusing scholar visa laws, mentioned Fezile Osum from the north’s Human Rights Platform, calling the state of affairs a “red alarm”.

The organisation manages an anti-trafficking hotline that has recognized 12 victims — all of intercourse trafficking — since late final yr.

In some circumstances, younger girls from African international locations are introduced in as college students, however once they arrive, “they are locked in private apartments and forced into (commercial) sex”, Osum mentioned.

That’s on high of trafficking circumstances from nightclubs, the place girls on “barmaid” and “hostess” visas should get common STD checks regardless of organised prostitution being unlawful within the territory, she added.

One survivor mentioned golf equipment typically used blackmail and medicines to regulate trafficked girls, Osum mentioned.

The north criminalised human trafficking for the primary time in 2020, however Osum mentioned no convictions had but been recorded.

She knew of 1 sufferer who had reported her ordeal to police within the south, solely to be advised, “this happened in the north… how can we collect evidence that you were actually trafficked?”

Turkish Cypriot politician Dogus Derya mentioned the territory’s unrecognised standing meant it was unable to cooperate with worldwide our bodies to struggle organised crime.

The north “can be seen as an area of ‘impunity’ for human traffickers”, she mentioned.

‘No hope’

A 2020 European Commission report, referencing 2017-2018 knowledge, mentioned Cyprus eclipsed all different EU international locations for the variety of recognized or presumed victims of human trafficking relative to its inhabitants, with 168 per million folks. Britain trailed in second place with 91.

“When they come, they don’t have hope for the future,” mentioned Paraskevi Tzeou, board member of Cyprus Stop Trafficking, referring to survivors who search assist on the organisation’s girls’s shelter within the south.

They have been “from nearly everywhere” — from EU international locations Romania and Bulgaria to Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Moldova, Cameroon, India and Nepal, a employee from the shelter mentioned, asking to stay nameless.

The Republic of Cyprus, which controls the island’s south, adopted extra complete anti-trafficking laws in 2014, bolstering it 5 years later.

The south formally recognised 21 victims of human trafficking final yr, mentioned Eleni Michael, head of the police anti-trafficking unit.

But 169 folks had been categorized as “possible victims”, official figures confirmed.

Police work tirelessly to establish and help real circumstances, Michael advised AFP, however solely verified allegations might result in official sufferer standing.

“If they said to us that they were exploited outside … the territory of Cyprus, it’s a little bit difficult to clarify,” she mentioned.

Cyprus has sought to hurry up glacial court docket proceedings, securing a number of current trafficking convictions.

But a Limassol court docket mentioned final month that “trafficking offences have reached alarming proportions in our country”.

Other circumstances have collapsed, together with that of 4 immigration police arrested in 2018 on suspicion of helping a trafficking community.

“The key witnesses, who were the victims of the offences… could not be traced to give evidence… despite the attempts made to locate them through EUROPOL,” the lawyer common’s workplace advised AFP.

In a faint glimmer of hope, a technical committee on prison issues brings collectively representatives from either side of the island.

But it has no statutory authority, mentioned Greek-Cypriot co-chair Andreas Kapardis.

It “can do something (to help combat trafficking) if the political will is there”, he mentioned.

But concern concerning the official recognition of the north “stops some ideas in their tracks”, he added.

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