Thank you, Mr President.
Dear colleagues, I would like to thank the two rapporteurs whose reports were debating here today. In exposing these issues, that are global in nature, we can seek ways to improve the conditions in our own countries, where we are more familiar with the structures in place and remaining difficulties.
Both debates deal with persons who are inherently vulnerable. It is important to bear this in mind, because vulnerable people, such as victims of trafficking and migrant children, require specific measures that address their vulnerability and exposure to risk. In other words, our member states policy responses in terms of legislation and capacities is also an indication of the quality of our welfare systems and our attachment to human rights and the prevalence of human dignity. I wish to commend this Assembly for always showcasing and defending the rights of the most vulnerable, exposed and marginalised persons in our societies.
As my good friend Baroness Doreen MASSEY pointed out a few minutes ago, now national parliaments play a crucial role in fighting trafficking. That is why I am very proud to say that the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus has recently approved one of the most strict – on a European level – legal frameworks, criminalising all those involved, either directly or indirectly, in the process of trafficking. The expression of ignorance of the victim status can no longer be considered an alleviating factor in court proceedings.
Additionally, this law renders the fines for those implicated in human trafficking much more severe, with life sentences applicable when the victims are children. Every civilised state has a moral obligation to enact legislation effectively redressing the numerous discriminations and inequalities that, unfortunately, persist in many societies, that perpetrate patterns of abuse and exploitation. This must end and women, in particular, together with children, must be protected against all forms of violence.
As regards missing refugee persons in Europe, I would firstly like to endorse the draft resolution and recommendation and recall that all children should be able to thrive in a safe and nurturing environment. We must ensure that migrant and refugee children, whose circumstances have been aggravated, receive even more protection. These children are at a high risk of exploitation, trafficking and multiple discrimination. As this report documents, thousands have disappeared on reaching Europe with no trace. Their disappearance is a direct consequence of the many loopholes in our child protection structures and our fragmented policies.
Cyprus, who has the highest percentage – in proportion to its population – of influx of migrants in Europe as a host country, realised it needed to effectively adopt structures and procedures to cater to the constant influx of refugees and migrants. Despite limited resources and capacities, despite the scarce support and aid we received from our European partners. An efficient guardianship system, focusing on migrant and refugee children’s best interests, has been put into place. These children, who have suffered persistent violations of their human rights, call for the highest possible level of care and protection. Members of the Parliamentary campaign of PACE to end the immigration detention of children had the opportunity to visit Cyprus last year and engage in fruitful dialogue with all relevant stakeholders.
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