Cyprus is predominantly considered to be a destination country for trafficked persons. The majority of the victims in Cyprus are trafficked for the purpose of sexual and labour exploitation.
Traffickers usually use force and abuse of the position of vulnerability of the victim or “debt bondage” as means of manipulation and control. The victims are forced into prostitution, labour exploitation or other criminal activities through the use of threats and/or deception, and consequently, end up living under slave-like conditions as their fundamental rights and freedoms are violated.
Over the past few years, victims of trafficking in human beings have mainly been third country nationals, but recently the number of the identified victims from the EU member states has increased.
In 2018 ,155 individuals were interviewed by the Police as potential victims of trafficking. The total number of identified victims were 42 as follows (some victims fall under more than one category):
- 4 victims trafficked for labour exploitation;
- 18 victims trafficked for sexual exploitation
- 7 victims were trafficked for forced marriages
- 12 victims were trafficked for both labour and sexual exploitation
- 1 victim was trafficked for committing criminal offences
In 2019 ,188 individuals were interviewed by the Police as potential victims of trafficking. The total number of identified victims were 36 as follows (some victims fall under more than one category):
- 3 victims trafficked for labour exploitation
- 12 victims trafficked for sexual exploitation
- 6 victims were trafficked for forced marriages
- 11 victims were trafficked for both labour and sexual exploitation
- 1 victim was trafficked for illegal adoption
- 1 victim was trafficked for forced begging
- 2 victims were trafficked for committing criminal offences
In 2020 ,172 individuals were interviewed by the Police as potential victims of trafficking. The total number of identified victims were 25 as follows (some victims fall under more than one category):
- 12 victims trafficked for labour exploitation
- 8 victims trafficked for sexual exploitation
- 1 victim was trafficked for forced marriages
- 3 victims were trafficked for both labour and sexual exploitation
- 1 victim was trafficked for forced begging
A summary of this text is available in the official language of the country.
Institutional and legal framework
All forms of human trafficking are prohibited. In April 2014 Law 60(I)/2014 was ratified. This Law revises the legal framework regarding prevention, combating trafficking and exploitation of persons and victim protection and provides for, among other things, severe sentences for the perpetrators of such offences, which are even harsher in case the victim is a child. It also provides for the criminalisation of the use of services, if there is reasonable suspicion that the service is provided by a victim of trafficking in human beings.
Law 60(I)/2014 has been amended in 2019 aiming to strengthen the prevention and prosecution framework. To this end, the amending law increases the penalties of the offences provided in the Law from 10 to 25 years, and when child victims are concerned, the penalty is life sentence. More specifically, the penalty for human trafficking is raised up to 25 years and when the purpose of human trafficking is for organ removal, or the victim is a child, then the penalty is raised to life imprisonment.
Furthermore, it amends the article concerning the criminalization of the use of services of victims, increasing the penalty from 3 years that was before, to 10 years or EUR 50,000, or both. It also introduces an article regarding the criminalization exclusively of the use of sexual services, stipulating that any person who asks for or receives or uses the services of a victim of sexual exploitation, is guilty of this offence. It therefore removes, for the case of sexual exploitation, the “reasonable suspicion” condition.
The term “demand” is also introduced in the law, stipulating that it includes:
- The client, who asks and buys services of human trafficking;
- The trafficker, who recruits, puts into prostitution or exploits in any way the victims;
- The employer, who hires the services obliged to provide the victims;
- The owner of the club or other place of leisure where victims are exposed, and
- Any other person who is involved in any way in the trafficking chain.
In addition, the fact that a person (the user) may claim that he was not aware that the person from whom he received the service was a victim indeed, does not constitute a defence.
Law 60(I)/2014 is aligned with the Council Directive 2004/81 (on the residence permit issued to third country nationals who are victims of trafficking of human beings or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration) and provides (possible) victims of trafficking with at least a one-month reflection period with the possibility of renewal. It is also aligned with the Council Directive 2011/36/EU. The Law is also in conformity with the international treaties, conventions and EU legal acts such as the Framework Decisions of the European Council 2002/629.
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was ratified on 24 July 2007 and put in force on the 1st February 2008.
Coordination of anti-trafficking actions at a national level
Law 60(I)/2014 provides for a National Co-ordinator for combating trafficking in human beings (it was first established under previous Law 87(I)/2007). This role is currently exercised by the Minister of Interior.
It also provides for a Multidisciplinary Co-ordinating Group, which was first established in 2007. The Group is tasked to take all the necessary measures to combat human trafficking and protect its victims. The Multidisciplinary Co-ordinating Group is chaired by the National Co-ordinator.
The Group meets on a regular basis every three months or at least three times a year. To achieve efficiency of the Group, specialised matters are assigned to working groups with the responsibility to submit recommendations and suggestions to the plenary of the Group.
Some of the responsibilities of the Multidisciplinary Co-ordinating Group are:
- To review or amend the National Action Plan;
- To co-operate with countries of origin, transit or other destination countries of victims, providing protection to victims and developing mechanisms for combating the offences described in the Law;
- To monitor and analyse international developments and Law on human trafficking;
The following bodies are represented in the Multidisciplinary Co-ordinating Group: the Law Office of the Republic, the Ministry of Justice and Public Order, the Police, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance, the Department of Labour, the Social Welfare Services, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Civil Registry and Migration Department, the Asylum Service, the National Machinery for the Rights of Women and the Union of Cyprus’ Municipalities. Four NGOs are also represented in the group, with a 2-year term, upon Decision of the National Coordinator).
National Rapporteur or equivalent mechanisms
Law 60(I)/2014 provides for an independent external evaluator, who is defined as the equivalent of the National Rapporteur. The Republic of Cyprus has not yet appointed the independent external evaluator, but is in the process of doing so. Until then, the competencies of the National Rapporteur or equivalent mechanism continue to be exercised by the Multidisciplinary Coordinating Group.
National Strategy and National Action Plan
The first National Action Plan for the Coordination of Actions to combat Trafficking in Human Beings was drawn up in 2001. This was followed by several National Action Plans (NAPs), namely the 2010-2012 NAP, the 2013-2015 NAP, the 2016-2018 NAP and the current one for the period 2019-2021.
The current NAP includes specific targets and practical measures, under the following 5 thematic areas:
- Legal and Strategic Framework,
- Repression and Prosecution,
- Identification and Recognition of victims of trafficking,
- Protection and Support of victims of trafficking, and
Implementation of anti-trafficking policy
Specific actions to raise awareness have been included in the National Action Plan. For example, several trainings have taken place, addressing, among others, members of the police, the Social Welfare Services, judges and prosecutors. These trainings will continue to be organised.
Moreover, a large number of police officers are trained every year in Cyprus and abroad. The training programs include modules on current laws and regulations, intelligence gathering and operations, victim identification, interview techniques, victims’ support and protection.
Leaflets have been produced and disseminated and, in November- December 2021, a nationwide awareness raising TV-radio-digital and social media campaign will take place, targeting demand and the criminalization of the use of sexual services.
Assistance and support provided to victims
According to Law 60(I)/2014, victims of trafficking are protected from penalties in cases where the offence is directly related to their status as victims, including illegal entry and residence. Victims are granted, a reflection period of at least one month, with the possibility of renewal. No fees are required for the issue of the relevant temporary residence permit. During this period, the victims have the following rights:
- protection from deportation
- the right to medical care
- the right to information concerning their rights and possibilities provided for by the Law
- public allowance
- the right to psychological support
- protection by the police
- free translation and interpretation services
- protection of personal data
- access to programmes provided by the State or by NGOs in cooperation with the State (if available) for rehabilitation of the social life of the victims (e.g. vocational training)
- the right to change sector of employment
The Law also provides for the right of the victim to seek compensation.
Since November 2007, a state shelter for female victims of sexual exploitation is in operation within the national framework of supporting victims of sexual exploitation. The shelter is under the responsibility of the Social Welfare Services and provides the victims with safe accommodation, psychological support and counselling and an individualized treatment plan. The State also funds the operation of safe accommodation establishments, run by NGOs.
Special protective measures for children
Law 60(I)/2014 is compliant with the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Several provisions are included for cases where children are involved, for example stricter penalties, while in the “identification and protection of the victims” part of the Law, special measures and methods are provided for child victims.
The Law also enables victims' access to education and provides child victims the opportunity to testify in court through video recorded statements.
Investigation and prosecution
Established multidisciplinary groups, special units and police groups
The Office of Combating Trafficking in Human Beings was established by the Cyprus Police in 2004. The Office is responsible for gathering, processing, analysing and utilizing intelligence about human trafficking. It also co-ordinates the actions of the District Divisions involved in the investigation of relevant cases.
Members of the Office take part in operations that aim to combat human trafficking and they have direct contact with victims until the final court decisions are reached. Furthermore, the Office co-operates with foreign services, governmental and non-governmental organisations on matters related to human trafficking. Finally, the Office organises and runs training programmes for police members in co-operation with the Cyprus Police Academy.
Number of investigations and prosecutions
In 2018, the Cypriot police investigated 60 persons in 22 suspected trafficking cases. Of these, 17 cases were sent to court, and 5 were otherwise disposed of.
In 2019, the Cypriot police investigated 45 persons in 14 suspected trafficking cases. Of these,13 cases were sent to court, and 1 was otherwise disposed of.
In 2020, the Cypriot police investigated 16 persons in 11 suspected trafficking cases. Of these, 8 cases were sent to court, and 3 were otherwise disposed of.
National Referral Mechanisms
Articles 44-45 of the Anti-trafficking Law 60(I)/2014 provide for the referral of (possible) trafficking victims. The Services involved in the referral are the following:
- the Social Welfare Services, acting as the first response authority and also coordinating all procedures for support to victims
- the Police,
- for the official recognition of victims
- for the investigations
- for operations to combat human trafficking
- the Asylum Service, for screening through the asylum process
- the Psychiatric Services, for assessment and support
- the Medical Services, for medical support
- the Labour Department, for access to employment
- the Civil Registry and Migration Department, for granting the residence permit to TCNs
- the Allowances Service, to grant the necessary living allowance
In the event a service involved or a non-governmental organisation is of the opinion or reasonably suspects that a person might be a victim under the provisions of this Law, it shall refer this person to the Social Welfare Services, and/or notify the Social Welfare Services, who shall inform him of his/her rights and the possibilities under this Law. The Social Welfare Services will provide information to the potential victim, including their rights as victims, the services that can offer assistance, the procedure for them to be recognised as victims etc. in a language the victim understands, and they shall refer the victims directly to the Police, which is the competent authority to determine and identify whether the said person is a victim.
EU and international cooperation
The Cyprus Police cooperates with other EU Member States, and with third countries, on exchanging information and criminal intelligence and several bilateral agreements have been reached. These agreements provide for co-operation in combating and preventing organised crime, including trafficking in human beings.
Relevant links to national authorities, institution websites and other contacts
National Rapporteur or equivalent mechanism
Ministry of Interior
CY – 1453, Nicosia
Telephone: + 357 22 867 800
Social Welfare Services
Social Welfare Services - Central Offices
PO Box 40184
63, Prodromou, 1468 Lefkosia, Cyprus
Telephone: +357 22406600
Fax: +357 22667907
Cyprus Police Headquarters – Office of Combating Trafficking in Human Beings
CY – 1478 Nicosia
Telephone: + 357 22 808 369 / 364
HOTLINE 1497 (24/7)
8 Saint Marona Street, Flat 4, 1010 Nicosia Cyprus
Mobile: +357 22662606
Cyprus Refugee Council
Stasandrou Street 9, Flat 401 – 4th Floor, 1060 Nicosia, Cyprus
Telephone: +357 22205959
Mobile: +357 99668709/ +357 97767329
339 St. Andrews, Limassol, Cyprus 3035
Association For The Prevention And Handling Of Violence In The Family (Spavo)
P.O. Box 20422, 2152 Nicosia, Cyprus
Telephone: +357 22339001
Cyprus Stop Trafficking
Telephone: + 357 99 42 89 52