Cyprus called hub of Mideast prostitution

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

NICOSIA The Republic of Cyprus serves as a major hub for the illegal trafficking of human beings to the Persian Gulf.

Cypriot officials said thousands of women are brought to the Republic of Cyprus every year, where they are sold into prostitution to Gulf Cooperation Council states. The officials said the United Arab Emirates is a leading destination of the traffic.

The Republic of Cyprus has been urged to introduce tough legislation to stop the country from being deemed as a major hub of human trafficking and prostitution. Parliamentarians are calling for legislation that will restrict the entry of foreigners and impose curbs on so-called marriage of convenience.

"We are known, in female trafficking circles, either as a final destination point or a go-between on the way to the Middle East, usually the United Arab Emirates," Greek Cypriot parliamentarian Eleni Theocharous told the Nicosia-based Cyprus Mail newspaper. "The issue is raised at every international human rights conference or Council of Europe meeting. I have been investigating the matter for a year, and there is definitely a problem."

The House Human Rights Committee has condemned the use of the island for the international market in prostitutes. Parliamentarians said most women brought to Cyprus arrive as illegal residents and are blackmailed by their agents who force them into prostitution.

The committee heard testimony that reported that many young women arrive to the republic and enroll as university students. They end up working in bars and then move into prostitution.

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