EU Acquis, international law, and local implementation: trafficking in women and the sex trade in Cyprus
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Despite its long pre-existence, the issue of human trafficking (especially for sexual purposes) has become the epicentre of attention since the closing of the past century. The globe-wide attempt of politicians, academics, practitioners, technocrats, activists, and journalists to define, advocate, measure, and ‘control’ people trafficking has brought to the fore particular (re)actions. One such example is the EU and international law that aim to facilitate the legal framework within which national administrations should embark upon to ‘better deal’ with human trafficking. While EU and international law can only go so far as to lay the theoretical basis that signatory states must follow for dealing with human trafficking, ultimately, planning and implementing public policy become the prerogative of the individual state. In light of this, the central contribution of this study is the exploration of the application of EU and international law in concern with human trafficking within the Cypriot context. In other words, how EU and international law on human trafficking are applied in day-to-day interactions between state employees, civil groups, and trafficked women. For this purpose, the study examines the interpretation and application of the local legislation by the criminal justice agencies as well as the local NGOs. Notably, such undertakings are informed by past and present geopolitical and socio-economic developments that have been taking place since the British colonisation of Cyprus. Research findings (based on ethnographic fieldwork and documentary study), demonstrate that EU’s attempt to enforce legislative cohesion, common policies, and harmonised practices over the issue of human trafficking across its Member States is yet to materialise. The case of Cyprus, and at times of other EU States, are used as a paradigm in which both, the EU acquis and international law fail to impose legal prescriptions on national authorities. To illustrate, the dimensions of prevention, detection, identification, prosecution, and adjudication of human trafficking, as well as trafficking victims’ protection, rehabilitation, and repatriation are explored in piecemeal and they all testify of systemic deviations from EU and international guidelines. Both Cypriot public services and local NGOs assigned to handle human trafficking are not in a position to bear the standards laid out by the EU and the CoE. Consequently, victims of trafficking are often predisposed to adverse conditions and as a result, they are often undertreated. Moreover, it is often the case that law on paper—both EU and Cypriot— and law in practice are diametrically different.