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Syrian underage brides sent to Cyprus on arranged marriage contracts, anti-trafficking unit head tells CNA

October 24, 2018 at 9:28am
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There is an incredible combination of factors around exploitation and human trafficking, says Rita Superman, the head of the police anti-trafficking unit in the Republic of Cyprus, adding that her office has been called in the past to deal with cases of child marriages involving underage girls from Syria.

Superman, who was recently appointed to chair the Interpol anti-trafficking group of experts, also says that migration and human trafficking are interlinked in Cyprus, with people coming via the Turkish-occupied, northern part of the island.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Superman recounts incidents of forced marriages involving minors, her office had to deal with. “This happens mainly with underage girls from Syria, sent to Cyprus to meet the groom on arranged marriage contracts,” she explains.

Superman says that the anti-trafficking unit had to deal with around 10 incidents before 3 or 4 years, the timing coinciding with the escalation of the Syrian crisis that led to a peak in migratory flows.

The Attorney General was called to issue an opinion over the matter, ruling that this kind of marriages are considered illegal in the Republic of Cyprus. “We are not aware of similar incidents as of late, but we know they exist,” says the policewoman.

She observes that human trafficking is interlinked with the problem of migration, that facilitates the exploitation of vulnerable groups of people.

Moreover, she says that state procedures are also being exploited by groups of people. There is an organised wave of Cameroonians coming to Cyprus through the Turkish-occupied part of the island and seek asylum in the free areas of the Republic, Superman says.

She adds that these people seem to be informed about all the procedures around asylum and know what to do, step by step. They know the procedures for the Identification of victims of trafficking and ultimately come to us, she says. “They might be trafficking victims, but it is very difficult to confirm it” she notes.

According to Superman “there is an incredible combination in our days, concerning the ways people are being exploited in every country.”

For the head of the anti-trafficking unit, the problem in Cyprus is increasing due to growing migration flows and takes worrying dimensions in relation to the capacity and the size of the country. Its connection with human trafficking is obvious in many levels, including work permits, fake marriages or exploiting the rights of tourist and student visas, she says.

The head of the police anti-trafficking unit was selected to chair the Interpol anti-trafficking group of experts for a year. Her first official function as chair was three weeks ago, when she attended Interpol’s international conference in Nigeria.

(Cyprus News Agency)