Cyprus Sees Drop in Sex Trafficking Amid Critique of Police Efforts

Title: Cyprus Reports Decline in Human Sex Trafficking, but Concerns of Underreporting and Inaction Persist

In a recent report, Cyprus has indicated a decrease in human sex trafficking incidents, but stakeholders are raising alarms that the figures may not accurately reflect the reality on the ground. Androula Christophidou Henriques, founder of Cyprus Stop Trafficking NGO, expressed concerns to the Cyprus Mail about the lack of proactive investigations by the current trafficking department.

Henriques, who has been at the forefront of the battle against human sex trafficking in Cyprus for decades, acknowledged that the situation has improved since the closure of cabarets in 2010, but she remains skeptical about the official numbers. According to an interior ministry report, from 2019 to 2022, there were 98 trafficking victims in Cyprus, with 33 cases related to sexual exploitation.

Rita Superman, a Disy MP and former head of the police anti-trafficking department, criticized the current unit for their apathy towards addressing the issue. She questioned the effectiveness of the department and suggested that the actual number of cases is likely higher than reported.

The government’s action plan for 2023 to 2026 includes intensified inspections to prevent trafficking victims. However, Eleni Michael, head of the anti-trafficking department, was not available for comment regarding these allegations.

Dr. Nasia Hadjigeorgiou, an assistant professor at the University of Central Lancashire, also voiced concerns about potential institutionalized racism affecting the handling of trafficking cases. She highlighted instances where interviews with presumed victims were inadequately conducted and noted that police cooperation between agencies on both sides of Cyprus is still in its infancy.

The US Department of State’s 2023 report placed Cyprus in Tier 1 for compliance with required standards but warned that social welfare services were not responding promptly to potential victims and that fewer traffickers were being convicted.

Efforts to combat human sexual trafficking in Cyprus intensified following a landmark European Court of Human Rights decision in 2010 involving Oxana Rantseva, a victim of trafficking. Since then, changes have been made to Cypriot visa rules and human trafficking has been criminalized in both Russia and Cyprus.

Despite these efforts, concerns remain about whether enough is being done to protect victims and effectively combat human sex trafficking on the island.

sex trafficking

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