KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism reports yet another extremely severe incident involving a blatant breach of the right to privacy, as well as a complete mishandling of the cases of two women – recognised victims of trafficking – by relevant state authorities and services. Unfortunately, the treatment of these women reflects yet again the absence of an effective and integrated framework for protection and support of human trafficking victims; in the aforementioned cases, with particular emphasis on the breach of the medical confidentiality code of ethics and of the law regarding data protection, as well as the role of state services and the media in the breach of human rights of migrants and the fostering of discrimination and racism.
On Saturday, 14th September 2013, a daily newspaper published an article claiming that the authorities were shocked by the cases of two migrant women sex workers, who have sexually transmitted infections. This specific article twists the truth and important elements of both cases. In particular, the “news story,” claiming the cases involve women who were recently found to be “selling themselves” during a police operation in Larnaca, or that the deportation of one of the women is underway, is not valid. Furthermore, the two cases are completely separate from each other, one of which involves a woman who was a victim of human trafficking in the areas beyond the control of the Republic of Cyprus. Furthermore, the particular article conceals the fact that both women have been officially recognised by the Cypriot authorities as human trafficking victims living in the state shelter for women who have been victims of human trafficking, which, among other things, also implies these women were forced by the traffickers to provide certain services.
The above news story was repeated through several other print, broadcasting, and digital media, while it was also reproduced on a website of a fascist party, in the context of its anti-immigrant, racist rhetoric and politics. To add to what had already leaked from the services involved and been published by the media, the Director of Health Services himself, Andreas Georgiou, in breach of every principle of medical ethics, medical confidentiality, and protection of sensitive data, made public confidential medical data of the aforementioned women. Furthermore, according to information received by KISA, Social Welfare Services, that are meant to take on the role of guarding persons recognised as victims of human trafficking, attempted to set in motion the removal of the two women from the shelter as soon as they found out the preliminary examination results, instead of concerning themselves with protecting and supporting them, as they should have.
KISA condemns the above actions, that – aside from being illegal – also foster a climate of panic, encourage and promote racism, sexism, and discrimination against not only these particular women, but against other vulnerable social groups as well (migrant women, sex workers, women who have lived through human trafficking, persons and in particular women with sexually transmitted infections).
KISA publicly urges the competent services and authorities (Attorney General, Minister of Health, Minister of Labour and Social Insurance, Commissioner for Personal Data Protection) to investigate within the framework of their own competencies the legal and other breaches as well as the entire handling of these two cases.
Also, KISA urges the Minister of Interior and the Multidisciplinary Coordinating Team against Human Trafficking, in light of the repeated cases of illegal deportation and violation of human rights of human trafficking victims, to immediately examine the framework of support and protection for human trafficking victims.
Finally, KISA urges the Cyprus Radiotelevision Authority and the Cyprus Media Complaints Commission to investigate the violation by digital and print media of their obligations as defined in relevant legislation and codes of conduct that govern them, respectively.