The United Nations declared 30 July as the “Day of Combating Human Trafficking” in 2013 to increase awareness and cooperation against human trafficking. As organizations working in the field of combating human trafficking in our country, we would like to inform you about the situation here on this day, to draw attention to human trafficking. Human trafficking is one of the most common illegal activities worldwide today and can be carried out by criminal organizations as well as by individual traffickers. Human trafficking, with its shortest definition, refers to the unjust gains obtained through the labour of individuals. The victims pay the price of this illegal gain with their freedom. Victims of human trafficking are kept under control by means such as pressure, threats of deportation, debt bondage, and taking advantage of vulnerabilities, and they are exposed to many serious human rights violations.
When we considered the applications made to the Cyprus Turkish Bar Association hotline, which became operational in December 2019, we realized that human trafficking exists in many sectors. The cases are mostly in the entertainment, construction, domestic service, farming, and agriculture sector. When we look at the profiles of the victims in different sectors, we see that they are almost all foreigners, who do not speak Turkish, and who are brought here with false promises. Foreigners mostly do not know about their legal rights in the country and do not know where to complain when they face human rights violations and this makes them vulnerable. Also; they are pushed into a desperate conditions and exploited by means such as the confiscation of their passports by the traffickers, making their stay in the country irregular and debt bondage. At the same time, it is known that LGBTI+s in our country are invisible victims and they become potential victims of human trafficking due to socio-economic and political impoverishment policies. Although the Palermo Protocol, which is a very important document in terms of combating human trafficking under international law, was adopted by the Parliament in 2018, the obligations under the Protocol were not fulfilled.
The fact that human trafficking was criminalized under Chapter 154 Penal Code in March last year is a positive development but there are still serious deficiencies in the legal protection of victims’ rights. In addition, an effective investigation is not being carried out regarding human trafficking and not a single trafficker has been convicted before the courts yet. Chapter 105 of the Aliens and Immigration Act, on the other hand, is an old legal framework from the British colonial period, and aside from protecting the victims of human trafficking, the broad arbitrary power provided on deportation orders and the ambiguous statements in the law paved the way for human traffickers to easily threaten the victims with the police. In addition, one of the most common problems in the field is that the state does not provide any protection or support to victims.
Even when victims go to the police to make a complaint, mostly their applications are not assessed effectively by the police and even if their complaints are processed, none of the services for victim protection and support such as shelter, social, psychological, and legal counselling are provided to them. In addition, foreigners are deported immediately as a common practice by the police without being subjected to a victim identification procedure.
Human trafficking is known as the modern name of slavery. The widespread occurrence of slavery and similar practices in our country and the increase in cases of serious exploitation in different sectors are worrying. In particular, the legislative and executive bodies should come together and immediately make the fight against human trafficking a permanent state policy and take decisive steps.
We demand immediate action on the following to combat human trafficking:
1- Adopt the comprehensive law prepared by the Cyprus Turkish Bar Association, which includes provisions on the rights and protection of victims of human trafficking, the establishment of a coordination mechanism for combating human trafficking, preventive measures, and effective penalization of the traffickers.
2- Implement the Anti-Trafficking Strategy and Action Plan, which was prepared in cooperation with CSOs and public institutions,
3- Provide periodic training to institutions such as the police and social services that are in direct contact with the victims of human trafficking,
4- Amendment of the Chapter 105 Aliens and Immigration Law to prevent the immediate deportation of foreigners without screening and access to victim identification,
5- Increase the number of inspections especially in the sectors mentioned above and train inspectors on the indicators of human trafficking.
6- It is unacceptable that the Night Clubs sector continues to operate under current conditions. This sector needs to be freed from slavery and similar practices immediately. In this context, the Nightclubs and Similar Places of Entertainment Law should be repealed or the articles leading to human trafficking should be amended. Human trafficking in nightclubs, which has attracted the attention of both local CSOs and international institutions for many years, must end.
Signatories and Supporting Organisations :
Refugee Rights Association
Cyprus Turkish Bar Association
Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation
Queer Cyprus Association
SOS Children Village Association
Joint Press Release on World Day Against Human Trafficking