GRETA, a Council of Europe team of experts on combating human trafficking, believes more can be done to support victims of trafficking in Cyprus in its annual general report on global activities.
The final GRETA report specifically on Cyprus is expected to be ready in March 2020.
In Cyprus, the report says, there is a state shelter for female victims of sexual exploitation, but victims choose not to stay at this shelter because they feel locked in and there are no programmes of activities to fill their time.
Victims receive Euros 17 per week while staying in the shelter and many are keen on getting to work as soon as possible, it adds.
GRETA stressed that the provision of timely assistance to victims of trafficking is essential for encouraging victims to remain in Cyprus for long enough to serve as witnesses in trials against traffickers and urged the Cypriot authorities to ensure that safe and suitable accommodation is provided for all victims of trafficking, according to their needs.
The report highlights the Law on Minimum Guaranteed Income according to which victims of trafficking are eligible for a guaranteed minimum income which amounts to Euros 480 per month, on top of which support towards covering accommodation costs.
Under the new scheme, victims’ earnings from gainful employment no longer result in the complete end of public financial support, but the amount earned is taken into account when calculating the support, which can be progressively decreased depending on the income.
However, there was a large number of applications submitted from different categories of persons, causing delays in the granting of support.
According to civil society representatives, it could take up to five months for the administrative procedures for the granting of financial and other forms of support to victims, and in the meantime, victims of trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation did not receive any assistance.
The report says that any trafficking victim who holds a temporary residence permit or certificate of identification, including those whose stay in the country was irregular, has the right to access the labour market through the Public Employment Services in the same way as Cypriot citizens.
In the period 2011-2014, 75 victims of trafficking were registered with the Employment Services and 34 persons were referred to employers.
But many employers are not aware that victims of trafficking have the right to work or are reluctant to employ them due to the complex rules regarding the employment of migrant workers, said GRETA.
A victim of trafficking who refuses the employment offered reportedly risks losing the different forms of assistance to which such victims are entitled, though this claim is denied by the authorities.
GRETA has also highlighted as a positive practice the support given by the private Frederick University, in co-operation with the NGO Stop Trafficking, which gives scholarships to victims of trafficking to enable them to pursue studies.
Source: The Financial Mirror