NEWS

Cypriots over-fond of cabarets

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus and the rest of Europe must step up efforts to combat people trafficking for cheap labor and prostitution, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil Robles said on Saturday. «The first issue of concern which I discussed was the need to deal with the phenomenon of human trafficking,» Robles told journalists at the end of a fact-finding visit to Cyprus. He said people trafficking, whether for sweat-shop labor or for prostitution, was a «huge issue» for Europe. When asked about the number of cabarets in Cyprus compared to the rest of Europe, he suggested there seemed to be more than enough foreign «artistes» working in night clubs and topless bars. «There are impressive statistics which must be taken into account,» Robles said. «Taking into account the island’s population there seems to be a lot of interest in these places (cabarets).» Official figures show there are 78 cabarets and 38 night clubs employing 1,270 artistes, but many more foreign women work in the island’s entertainment industry. A parliamentary committee heard earlier this week that an estimated 3,000-3,500 women, mostly from impoverished former Soviet-bloc countries, arrive on the island each year looking for work in night clubs and bars, many of whom are lured into the sex industry. One in eight foreign artistes marry Cypriot men in order to stay legally on the island, with around 1,200 civil weddings annually as opposed to only 70 marriages involving Cypriot women and foreign men. Gil Robles called for more effective measures against local vice rings. «There should be more protection for the victims of people trafficking and the witnesses to it.» Gil Robles also criticized Cyprus for treating asylum seekers as «criminals.»