Human trafficking prevention a government priority

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Preventing and combating human trafficking is a priority for the government, said Justice Minister Anna Koukkides Procopiou, following a US State Department report which positively assessed Cyprus, maintaining its Tier 1 ranking.

A ministry statement said the US report notes positive developments that authorities have successfully identified more victims issued stricter sentences, maintained a robust victim assistance program, regular training for officers and an information hotline related to trafficking.

“It is emphasised that human trafficking is one of the most serious and complex forms of transnational organised crime that grossly harms human rights and human dignity.”

Koukkides Procopiou said, “Prevention and fight against human trafficking, as well as the support of the victims, is a priority of the current government.

“The Anti-Trafficking Office and all relevant agencies will continue to evaluate any information or clues and make every effort to identify victims and perpetrators and bring them to justice.”

She said “serious thought” will be given to the State Department recommendations, and additional measures will be taken for their implementation where this is deemed necessary.

Despite Cyprus meeting the minimum standards to eliminate people trafficking, challenges persist, said the US State Department’s annual report.

It highlighted a decrease in the number of traffickers convicted and defendants prosecuted.

The Social Welfare Services has been criticised for its delayed response to referrals of potential victims and for failing to refer them to the police for official identification procedures.

Additionally, the government has faced criticism for reducing overall funding for victim assistance and failing to promptly disburse financial aid to victims.

And judges have not consistently issued restitution as part of sentencing, while victims have never received compensation from the established fund.

The minister called on the public who have suspicions or information that the crime of people trafficking is being committed to immediately report it to the police, anonymously, via the telephone line 1497 or the electronic platform so that the competent authorities can investigate.