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Cyprus gets US downgrade on combating people trafficking

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Cyprus has been downgraded by the US for its non-effective action to prevent and punish people trafficking.

The US has downgraded Cyprus’ efforts to Tier 2 from Tier 1 in the State Department 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report.

It said for the third consecutive year, Cypriot courts did not convict any perpetrators under the trafficking law.

And the last time Cyprus was in Tier 2 was in 2017.

“The Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so,” the report said.

“These efforts were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the government’s anti-trafficking capacity.”

Nine recommendations and objectives were given for Cyprus’s anti-trafficking efforts over the next year.

A US embassy official said: “Unfortunately, after three years ranked at Tier 1, the State Department assessed that the government of the Republic of Cyprus did not meet all four of the minimum standards and was not making `appreciable progress.”

In addition to Cyprus, five other countries received downgrades from Tier 1 to Tier 2: Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, and Switzerland.

The State Department recommended the Cyprus government vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers under the law for trafficking and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms, allocate sufficient resources to enable the anti-trafficking unit to investigate all offences effectively.

And for Social Welfare Services to promptly refer all potential victims, reduce delays in providing victim assistance, including access to healthcare, rental disbursements, and financial assistance, and train government personnel on victim identification, assistance, and assistance referral.

Moreover, to proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations, including migrants, asylum seekers, and agricultural workers.

Authorities were advised to improve victim-centred investigations and prosecutions, implement witness protection measures when necessary, and implement recommendations made by the Ombudsman and other entities that monitor and evaluate anti-trafficking policies and efforts.

“Although the government identified roughly the same number of victims, authorities investigated fewer suspects, and, for the third consecutive year, courts did not convict any perpetrators under the trafficking law.”

“Court proceedings for most crimes lasted years, and foreign victims and witnesses often returned to their countries of origin without an adequate means to ensure the continued inclusion of their testimony, resulting in trafficking cases convicted under lesser charges.

“The anti-trafficking unit continued to lack sufficient resources to thoroughly investigate all referrals of potential trafficking victims.”

US Ambassador Judith Garber discussed the report before it was released with several government ministers. (source CNA)