Address by the Minister of Justice and Public Order, Ms Stephie Dracos, at the CEPOL course 22/2022 “Trafficking in Human Beings – Labor exploitation”
It is with great pleasure that I am addressing today such an important conference, which focuses on human trafficking and labor exploitation.
First of all, allow me to warmly welcome all participants in Cyprus and express our gratitude to the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) for entrusting the organization of the conference to the Cyprus Police. Such trainings strengthen even further the cooperation of the EU member states in the fight against trafficking in human beings, one of the most serious forms of transnational crime.
The participation of trainers from countries such as Spain, France, Greece, the Netherlands and international/European organizations, such as Europol, Empact, CEPOL, IOM, ELA, demonstrates the importance of the topic, but also the very good level of cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of EU and other countries in preventing and combating human trafficking.
Children, women, migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. Nowadays trafficking takes a variety of forms. It is constantly evolving. Its transnational nature increases its complexity and makes it difficult to detect and investigate. Thus, it requires close and continuous cooperation between the law enforcement authorities of the EU member states and third countries.
Cyprus, mainly due to its geographical position, but also due to the instrumentalization of migration by Turkey through the green line, is a destination country for victims of trafficking.
It is clear that the problem of human trafficking is linked to immigration. Refugees and asylum seekers are an easy target for traffickers. The perpetrators approach migrants, mainly refugees in various ways, offering them help for transportation, accommodation and work, with the aim to exploit them.
The war in Ukraine creates fertile ground for sexual or labor exploitation of Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country. For this reason, the exchange of information, experiences and best practices between EU member states and other countries is of utmost importance for the early identification of the perpetrators and the victims.
Countering human trafficking is one of the priorities of the EU. Recognizing the transnational and evolving nature of this crime and the terrible consequences on the lives of victims, the EU has established and developed several cooperation mechanisms for the competent authorities of its member states.
The Cyprus Police cooperates closely and exchanges information with the law enforcement agencies of other member states of the EU and third countries, through Europol, CEPOL and Interpol. It also actively participates in joint operations and programs of EMPACT, through the Police Office of Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.
At the same time, seeking to further strengthen this cooperation, Cyprus has concluded bilateral agreements with several countries for cooperation in preventing and combating organized crime, including trafficking in human beings, giving emphasis to the conclusion of such agreements with countries of origin of the victims.
Over the past years, Cyprus has stepped up its efforts to fight human trafficking. In 2019, penalties for THB provided by our national legislation were significantly increased and a new provision concerning the criminalization of the use of sexual services of victims of trafficking was added.
More specifically, the penalty for the basic offences increased from a maximum of 10 years’ to 25 years’ imprisonment and to life imprisonment for human trafficking for organ removal. A new article was added, which criminalizes the use of sexual services provided by victims of trafficking.
As a result, the number of convictions in human trafficking cases has increased significantly.
Dear organizers and participants,
Due to the multifaceted nature of human trafficking, no country is capable of combating this transnational crime on its own. This global threat requires a coordinated response at all levels.
I am sure that the exchange of views, experiences and best practices between the experts participating in this conference will enrich even further our knowledge. Also will contribute to the achievement of our common aim to combat human trafficking in all its forms.
I am convinced that if we strengthen our cooperation, we will be better prepared to respond to the needs of the victims, bring the perpetrators to justice, and protect society as a whole from trafficking in human beings.
I wish you all an inspiring and successful conference.
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