Human Trafficking – A Very Real Problem In Cyprus
Human trafficking is a worldwide problem and one that also exists here in Cyprus. We caught up with Nicola Smith, President of Freedom Dolls Initiative to tell us more.
1. When And Why Was FDI Launched?
Freedom Dolls Initiative (FDI) was launched in March 2014 in Larnaca to help women who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women of all nationalities in Cyprus.
So this is a very real problem also in Cyprus as well?
Yes, most definitely! At present there are over 8,000 women missing in Cyprus. Many people in Cyprus do not believe that human trafficking takes place and some do not know what human trafficking is and we needed to make people aware.
There is a difference between smuggling a person into a country and “trafficking” them into a country. If a person is smuggled they pay to get from A to B and when they reach their destination they are free to go on their way. If someone is trafficked, then more often than not they are deceived into believing they are travelling to a job – it is easier and safer for a trafficker to let a person travel on their own to a destination country on the promise of job. Once at the destination they are met at the airport and their passports are taken from them and they are then imprisoned and told, threatened, beaten and/or raped until they become submissive enough to provide sexual services for men in Cyprus.
Freedom Dolls Initiative is working to help these women. All cultures and nationalities are involved in trafficking in one way or another.
Here are some facts that people may not know;
- The Average Price of a slave in 1809 was €31,500 (adjusted to today’s money)
- Today the average price of a slave is €70!!
- Recruiters of victims
>> 54% are strangers to the victim
>> 46% are known to the victim
- There are estimated to be over 30 million slaves globally that is three times the population of Greece and Cyprus combined
- Trafficking affects 161 countries worldwide
2. What Is The Main Aim Of FDI?
Our main aim is to create awareness of the issue of human trafficking here on the island. The main problem we have is the lack of knowledge. There is also the fact that many people put their heads in the sand hoping it doesn’t exist or it will go away. Many men just see the women as prostitutes who want to be in Cyprus. The women on the island think that these prostitutes are taking their men. Neither is true. Social stigma is crippling the reality of human trafficking. Social awareness is key to helping these victims.
3. Is Anything Being Done On The Island At All?
There are several NGO’s on the island that help victims and do a great job. However, there is no infrastructure in place to provide the on-going care needed for the victims. Once recognised as a victim the ladies are placed in an apartment while they await the trial to prosecute their trafficker. In 2014 there were 14 Cypriot men were charged with trafficking. A number of women of various nationalities have been charged with trafficking, 10 Romania women, 5 Bulgaria women and 4 Chinese women are among the total number charged with trafficking. In total there have been 50 charges brought for trafficking in 2014.
4. What Happens To The Women You Take In?
The women have been through horrendous abuse, both psychically and mentally and placing them in an apartment to recover is not conducive to a healthy recovery and Freedom Dolls recognise this.
We would like to setup a safe house where all the women are placed for a minimum of four months to assess their mental health before moving them into an apartment on their own. The women will be given training from life skills and healthcare to car mechanics and cookery, computer courses to English and Greek lessons and not only does this help the women focus on moving on with their lives, but it also gives them a skill they can then develop when they move on. The two main skills the women learn is sewing and jewellery making – these are a major part of the recovery process for the women.
5. Tell Us More About The “Freedom Dolls”
The Freedom Dolls are handmade and each doll is unique. A wide variety of dolls are made in any colour (even blue and pink, which were used by children to discuss aliens) any clothing styles and colours. We are just about to launch a range of male dolls including pirates, soldiers and sailors.
We have been asked by CyHerbia to make 30 fairy dolls that will be sold at their Fairy Festival in May 2015. As the dolls are used as a therapeutic process and the ladies are given free reign in expressing their emotions through making of the dolls, because of this some of the dolls are crying. Each doll costs €12 and the money is returned as a donation to the women to help them not only feel a sense of worth, but to understand household financial matters.
Not only do the dolls help the victims they also help the buyer – some dolls are made with no hair for Alopecia suffers, while other dolls are missing a limb to help a child to adjust to loosing a limb or for them to adjust to family member who has lost a limb. Therefore not only are the dolls helping our victims but also those that buy them.
We also have jewellery that ranges from €3.95 to €15.00. Both the dolls and the jewellery can be ordered from our web site www.freedom-dolls.com or call Marie on 96630703. There are various distribution points around the island that have the dolls for sale – if you are interested as a business to sell the dolls just call Marie she will gladly help.
6. Are You An International Organisation?
Although we are not registered yet all over the world - the dolls are sold in many countries, all over the Middle East, USA, UK, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and South Africa.
If you know anyone who has a business abroad or of an individual who is happy to help us sell the Freedom Dolls abroad, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be going to Bahrain in October for a week to travel around and give talks. We are moving forward.
7. How Do You Inform People About This Very Real Problem?
I give many lectures on human trafficking for school children aged 10 years upwards. Numerous organisations and groups have learnt a lot from the talks given. The talks for children are constructed around slavery and awareness, while the adult lectures can be constructed around social issues, historical facts, as well as international legal interests.
The talks can be given to suit the group concerned. Human trafficking is a very depressing and violent subject – yet the brief for one talk was – No violence and nothing graphic – so the talk focused on how we are moving forward in Cyprus in relation to FDI and human trafficking.
8. Who Keeps FDI Operational?
Our FDI team is very close. Nicola has brought together a team that can bring about change on the island in a fast and effective way. Nicola’s VP is Stanna Wieclawska Kyriakou who joined the team about eight months ago. When she joined the team she was in a wheelchair and looking to help with the media side of things. Much needed to be done for the charity we are happy to say Stanna is now out of her wheelchair and running around left, right and center for FDI. Stanna is a strong force behind the charity. Marie is our logistics coordinator who gets the job of doing everything and anything in the office – she mans the fort with ease regardless of how crazy things become and they do become very crazy at times. The newest member of the team is our Psychologist counselor Katerina Navolochnaya has 11 years’ experience working in the field with children and adults who have been trafficked.
9. What Are The Challenges That Lay Ahead For FDI?
The main challenges that FDI face are financial. We are in need of a safe house – one that victims can feel safe and we can offer in house care and attention 24 hours a day. At present the victims are in apartments and this is just not good enough.
FDI is looking for anyone that can help us with fundraising – not only are we looking for individuals all over the world who can take the time to run a race, shave their head, organise a fashion show or music festival - anything that will help raise money for these victims. We have a music event in June in Larnaca if you are willing to help please let us know by emailing email@example.com
10. What Is Needed Most To Help, Cypriots And Expats Living On The Island Become More Aware Of The Issue?
As well as funding the key is awareness and Nicola is instrumental in offering talks to schools, organisations, the forces, universities, business groups and women’s groups. These talks highlight the social, psychological and legal issues that are all linked with human trafficking.
As the driving force behind FDI I am willing to talk to anyone and everyone about the subject “the more people who know the more people who can help, once people understand the problem they are more than willing to help us”.
A Little About FDI President, Nicola Smith
Nicola Smith has lived on the island for 10 years but has spent the last sixteen years working with victims of human trafficking victims and prostitutes in the United Kingdom and Cyprus. Her main aim is to create awareness not only in Cyprus, but on an international level about the issues that arise within human trafficking. Not only has she gained knowledge of the issues that arise while working on a one to one basis with victims understanding and addressing all the psychological and social problems but she follows up this work with a strong academic background.
Her first degree was ‘A Class Analysis of Prostitution’ this 30,000 word research project reviewed all levels of prostitution within the United Kingdom. From street walkers to high class escorts, when she did this degree the words human trafficking were not used and the words ‘foreign prostitute’ was given as a label for the women who had been trafficked. In 2014 she completed a Master’s degree, an LLM in International Law reviewing the human trafficking laws in Cyprus, Germany and Sweden researching whether each country had a solid infrastructure in place, inline with all EU regulations.
Her one dream is to have a safe house in every city here in Cyprus. Nicola and her husband also run one of the oldest charity shops in Larnaca, Nifty Thrifty which they use as a donation point for household items and food for the victims and is one of the numerous places the Freedom Dolls which are made by the victims are sold.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like her to do a talk for you.
Freedom Dolls Initiative
Address: House of Volunteers, Griva Digeni Avenue, 6030 Larnaca