Cyprus is making significant efforts to fully meet standards for the elimination of trafficking, US report says

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, however, it is making significant efforts to do so.

This is stated in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 that was made public on Tuesday. The report includes 187 countries. In 2017 Cyprus was downgraded to Tier 2 from Tier 1 last year.

Countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protecion Act’s minimum standards are included in Tier 1. Tier 2 are countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. There are in addition two more categories: Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 3.

A US Embassy official has told CNA that ‘we have a very good cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus which in the past ten years has made remarkable efforts’.

He added that “although it was downgraded this year, the RoC makes significant efforts and is committed to fighting trafficking. But important work remains to be done. We hope it will take the necessary steps to return to Tier 1′.

As regards the situation in the areas which are not under the control of the Republic of Cyprus, the US Embassy official said that ‘we strongly urge the Turkish Cypriot side to take steps to eliminate trafficking. They have not yet made any significant efforts to combat the problem’.

The section on Cyprus says that the government of Cyprus made significant efforts to meet the minimum standards during the reporting period by developing protocols of cooperation to formalize NGOs into the national referral mechanism in

areas of housing and general support and increasing funds to an NGO-run shelter.

The government improved efforts to assist victims including by streamlining the process to disperse financial support to victims, providing foreign victims residence permits and the right to work, and paying travel and accommodation expenses for a victim to testify in the first civil case against a trafficker, it is added.

However, these efforts were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period. The government convicted fewer traffickers, initiated fewer prosecutions, and identified fewer victims. A police officer employed interview tactics that may have re-traumatized victims. Three NGOs withdrew from the Multidisciplinary Coordinating Group (MCG) due to the non-substantive role of NGOs and infrequent meetings. Therefore, Cyprus was downgraded to Tier 2.

The report recommends to the government of Cyprus to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers under law 60(I) and train judges and prosecutors on its application, provide specialized training for law enforcement, including best practices for interviewing trafficking victims, proactively investigate potential labour trafficking of domestic workers and individuals in agriculture as well as train staff at the government-run shelter to increase the quality of support services available to victims, particularly psychological support.

It also recommends that the government proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations, including among domestic and agricultural workers, reduce delays in court proceedings and ensure cooperation of all relevant actors, including NGOs, in the MCG.

As far as the areas which are not under the control of the Republic of Cyprus, the report says that ‘the area administered by Turkish Cypriots continues to be a zone of impunity for human trafficking’

Meanwhile, in statements at the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report launch ceremony in Washington, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed hope that the 21st century will be the last century of human trafficking saying that’s what we are all committed to.

Regrettably, our challenge is enormous. Today, globally, it’s estimated that there are 20 million victims of human trafficking. So, clearly, we have a lot of work to do and governments around the world have a lot of work to do’, he concluded.

Source: Cyprus News Agency