By Kyriacos Kiliaris
A report issued by US State Department has relegated the Cyprus Republic to Tier Two in its annual report on human trafficking for 2017 concerning 187 countries.
The report essentially drops the Republic from Tier One, the tier in which countries with essentially no human trafficking problems are placed.
Justifying the relegation, the report states that Cyprus sentenced the lowest numbers of traffickers, started the least number of legal procedures against traffickers and recognised the lowest number of victims.
It calls on the government to try and sentence traffickers according to the relevant legislation, and to train judges and prosecutors in the implementation of the relevant laws.
It recommends that the state investigates the possible trafficking of domestic and farm workers, as well improving the support services provided to victims.
The report is tougher on the north of Cyprus, placing it in Tier Three, which means the Turkish Cypriot authorities “have not taken the minimum required measures to prevent human trafficking and have not shown any effort to do so”.
According to the report, the north’s notorious night clubs are the main offenders when it comes to human trafficking, with women working in these establishments forced into prostitution.
These night clubs are considered to be legal establishments, obtaining licences from the authorities. According to the US, the north’s administration gains 20-30 million Turkish Lira in the form of tax every year from these clubs.
The report also condemns authorities for not taking any measures to protect the victims of human trafficking.
On the contrary, as recorded in the report, what happens is that when police perform raids at night clubs, possible victims of human trafficking are arrested and thrown in jail on charges of prostitution.
The report also marks the absence of a safe haven for victims, noting that authorities in the north provide neither sociological, financial nor psychological support to victims of trafficking.
There was only one such shelter for victims and that closed in 2016.
Furthermore, the report said the north does not have regulations regarding human trafficking and Turkish Cypriot authorities do not keep any records with regards to penalties handed out to offenders.
It said the north’s officials are reported to be accomplices to the crime in many cases. Turkish Cypriot police are also implicated as they withhold the passports of people coming to work at night clubs upon their entry to the north.
The report also states that there is a problem of human trafficking of labour in the north, with victims being forced to work in various sectors such as agriculture, the construction industry and as domestic workers.
Many workers are forced to work under inhumane conditions with the threat of being expelled from the country and their freedom of movement confined.