In March 2020, The TRNC Parliament amended the “TRNC criminal code” to include trafficking for the first time and Parliament also passed the 2000 UN TIP Protocol in April 2018. However, Turkish Cypriot authorities did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any traffickers. Turkish Cypriot authorities did not identify any trafficking victims and provided no victim protection, including shelter and social, economic, and psychological services. Turkish Cypriot authorities did not allocate funding to anti-trafficking efforts or provide training on anti-trafficking issues, a USA government report on trafficking in Cyprus (north and south) said.
The report covering North Cyprus began by saying that the United States does not recognise the TRNC, nor does any other country except Turkey.
The “Nightclubs and Similar Places of Entertainment Law of 2000” stipulated nightclubs may only provide entertainment such as dance performances, but Turkish Cypriot authorities rarely enforced this “law” and observers continued to report the 27 nightclubs in “TRNC” acted as brothels where sex trafficking commonly occurred. Police confiscated passports of foreign women working in nightclubs and issued them identity cards, reportedly to protect them from abuse by nightclub owners. Observers reported women preferred to keep their passports, but police convinced them to render passports to avoid deportation. “TRNC” authorities did not permit women to change location once under contract with a nightclub and routinely deported foreign victims who voiced discontent about their treatment; Turkish Cypriot authorities deported 255 women who curtailed their contracts without screening for indicators of trafficking (581 in 2019). The “law” prohibited living off the earnings of prostitution or encouraging prostitution, but nightclub bodyguards accompanied female nightclub employees to their weekly health checks for sexually transmitted infections, ensuring the women did not share details about potential exploitation in commercial sex with police or doctors in order to facilitate continued illegal activity. The “law” that governed nightclubs prohibited foreign women from living at their place of employment; however, most women lived in dormitories adjacent to the nightclubs or in other accommodations arranged by the owner, a common indicator of trafficking.
The “Nightclub Commission,” composed of police and “government officials” who regulate nightclubs, met monthly and made recommendations to the “Ministry of Interior” regarding operating licenses, changes to employee quotas, and the need for intervention at a particular establishment. The “Nightclub Commission” reportedly inspected approximately five nightclubs every two weeks and followed up on complaints; however, in practice, inspections focused on the sanitation of kitchens and interviews with women working in nightclubs always took place in front of nightclub bodyguards or staff, preventing women from speaking freely. Nightclubs provided a source of tax revenue for the Turkish Cypriot administration with media reports in 2015 estimating nightclub owners paid between 20 million and 30 million Turkish lira ($2.69 million and $4 million) in taxes annually, presenting a conflict of interest and a deterrent to increased political will to combat trafficking. Additionally, observers alleged complicit “government officials” were involved in organized criminal groups associated with nightclubs and that some “parliament” members were among the nightclubs’ clientele. Despite business closures due to pandemic mitigation measures, night club owners continued to force victims into sex trafficking. NGOs reported an increase in calls to an NGO-run hotline from trafficking victims and a 400 percent increase in requests for psychological assistance and 300 percent increase in legal assistance from victims in 2020.
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