Monday, November 19, 2007

Cyprus: Leaving Ourselves Open to Sex Trafficking Claims

CYPRUS - A LACK of official studies on human trafficking in Cyprus is one of the main reasons for the hazy view on the true extent of the problem.

This was the main consensus of yesterday’s House Human Rights Committee, which convened to discuss the trafficking problem in Cyprus as a consequence of last week’s meeting with international expert Celia de Lavarene.

De Lavarene had indicated that Cyprus was a transit point for the sex trade, a suggestion strongly denied by committee chairman Sophoclis Fyttis of DIKO, but also by the Attorney-general. According to the expert, her meeting with AG Petros Clerides lasted no more than six minutes, with the latter flatly refuting what she was saying.

Clerides defended the cold reception he offered De Lavarene during yesterday’s meeting, saying that he disagreed with Cyprus being named as a transit point for trafficked women but concurred there was a problem on the island.

“She came here with opinions that I could not accept and I will not agree with the person I’m speaking to just to keep good relations,” he said.

“I didn't know who she was; she visited me to insult my country and I was not going to accept that. I will not accept that Cyprus is a transit point for trafficked women.

But I never said there wasn't a problem. I told her four times that I agreed women were being exploited but she insisted we were a transit point.”

“She was rude,” he added. “I asked her if she believed the police did not check cabarets and she told me they visited them as clients,” he added, wondering if the island’s police force was that corrupt.

“I accept that there is exploitation,” Clerides continued. “Extremely big steps have been made in the right direction though. All you have to do is see the situation 10 years ago and look at it today.

“We are moving in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done.”

The AG said there were a number of aspects to look at, such as the fact that women come to Cyprus, are given a residency permit but not a work permit...


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