At shore | 2015 | Cyprus

Ladies Beach Limassol, Cyprus. One of the island’s hidden gems, where tourists and local alike can spend their leisure  time beside the beach’s deep, turquoise water.

Ladies Beach Limassol, Cyprus. One of the island’s hidden gems, where tourists and local alike can spend their leisure  time beside the beach’s deep, turquoise water.

Birds fly over Cyprus. The island is located along a major migration routes for birds . Millions of swallows, martins and swifts can be seen overhead during spring, fall, and even winter.

Birds fly over Cyprus. The island is located along a major migration routes for birds . Millions of swallows, martins and swifts can be seen overhead during spring, fall, and even winter.

Despite devastation that followed by the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus in 1974, the so-called “economic miracle” of the late 1970s and 1980s brought growth to the Greek south. A lack of low-skilled laborers prompted Cyprus to open its doors to foreign workers in 1990, abandoning the restrictive immigration policies. In 2004, Cyprus joined the EU. These two factors have lead to a steadily increasing immigration rate on the island over the past two decades.

As growing numbers of people displaced by nearby conflict zones try to reach Europe, the island’s vulnerable populations have also increased, and proven an easy target for exploitation. In hopes of escaping the cycle of poverty and hardship, families and young adults in developing countries sign away their homes or take out high risk loans, all to pay thousands of dollars to so called employment agencies to obtain work visas overseas and so enter Cyprus. For many people, the future looks quite dark and without much to lose, people take the chance when being offered a lucrative job, hoping to reach something better on the other side.

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   After the oil drilling company in his home region of Gorj, Romania, laid off workers, Ilie was left without income in one of the poorest countries in Europe. Following job leads from his former colleague back home, Ilie saved up for a flight to Cyprus where he was hoping to find better living conditions and financial stability for his wife, son and blind mother who he had left behind.      Shortly after his arrival Ilie found work on a construction site, working with heavy machinery, gas and fire, he made about 35 Euros a day.  


After the oil drilling company in his home region of Gorj, Romania, laid off workers, Ilie was left without income in one of the poorest countries in Europe. Following job leads from his former colleague back home, Ilie saved up for a flight to Cyprus where he was hoping to find better living conditions and financial stability for his wife, son and blind mother who he had left behind. Shortly after his arrival Ilie found work on a construction site, working with heavy machinery, gas and fire, he made about 35 Euros a day. 

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     Working with heavy duty equipment for a construction company,   Ilie had a tragic work accident while handling a gas barrel that exploded right in front of him. When Ilie was rushed to the hospital   with severe burns  , he found out that his employer   had   stopped paying for his insurance   only after a couple of weeks  . Despite taking antibiotics and other   affordable   medicine, the health care he received was insufficient. After a year and a half, his leg is still infected and his daily life is impacted by the injury. Currently he has no income and lives in a barrack without electricity and water. Until his healing is complete, he won't be able to take another job offer. He longs to go home and be with his family.

Working with heavy duty equipment for a construction company, Ilie had a tragic work accident while handling a gas barrel that exploded right in front of him. When Ilie was rushed to the hospital with severe burns, he found out that his employer had stopped paying for his insurance only after a couple of weeks. Despite taking antibiotics and other affordable medicine, the health care he received was insufficient. After a year and a half, his leg is still infected and his daily life is impacted by the injury. Currently he has no income and lives in a barrack without electricity and water. Until his healing is complete, he won't be able to take another job offer. He longs to go home and be with his family.

 

Many of the foreign workers expect to arrive in Europe's mainland with fairly good integration policies and welcoming communities, but instead are landing on contested lands, where the media and public debate circles around allegations that migrants and asylum seekers receive too many benefits and are responsible for the rise in crime, car accidents, and diseases.

Although the land is divided, the victims of trafficking that are being held by corrupt businesses are regularly trafficked across borders. Ironically, the police and government officials on either end of the conflict do not cooperate,  while the mafia on both sides communicates and works well together.

 

Limassol, Cyprus. 2015. The buzzing night club scene, bars, and cabarets attract huge crowds of foreign tourists that fly in from Europe, Russia, Turkey and the Middle East.

Limassol, Cyprus. 2015. The buzzing night club scene, bars, and cabarets attract huge crowds of foreign tourists that fly in from Europe, Russia, Turkey and the Middle East.

A bar in Limassol, Cyprus

A bar in Limassol, Cyprus

Recruited by corrupt employment agencies abroad, many migrants are being coerced into low income jobs in the tourism and nightclub industry, domestic, and agriculture sector. Many migrants end up forced into labour, prostitution, and inhumane treatment by the employers with little to no time off. Domestic workers, with slave like working conditions and an average net salary of 309 Euro a month, become trapped in employers’ houses and are totally dependent on them for their well-being.

Further compounding their isolation is a lack of  language skills and knowledge of labour protection rights. As a result, many of the migrants become homeless with nothing to show for but expired work permits - while their families back home have expectations for them to succeed, and to return one day.

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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}   Despite her college education, a young girl from South East Asia couldn't find a well paying job after months on the search. Her aunt urged her to go overseas to find higher paying work and better opportunities. Through an employment agency, she was promised a job as a waitress. When she arrived, the young woman ended up in a cabaret as a sex worker and locked in her madam's home. She took a knife into her room and was about to commit suicide but decided to fight through it and was eventually able to escape and reunite with her mom who had severe cancer.    

Despite her college education, a young girl from South East Asia couldn't find a well paying job after months on the search. Her aunt urged her to go overseas to find higher paying work and better opportunities. Through an employment agency, she was promised a job as a waitress. When she arrived, the young woman ended up in a cabaret as a sex worker and locked in her madam's home. She took a knife into her room and was about to commit suicide but decided to fight through it and was eventually able to escape and reunite with her mom who had severe cancer.

 

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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}   A young woman from South East Asia was granted a resident permit after being rescued by the trafficking police in Cyprus. After cooperating, she now is living in a half-way house with an apartment of her own. With the help from local NGO's she found a safe job in a local restaurant which allows her to slowly pay of the loan that her parents initially took to finance her trip to Cyprus and finally return home.    

A young woman from South East Asia was granted a resident permit after being rescued by the trafficking police in Cyprus. After cooperating, she now is living in a half-way house with an apartment of her own. With the help from local NGO's she found a safe job in a local restaurant which allows her to slowly pay of the loan that her parents initially took to finance her trip to Cyprus and finally return home.

 

Paphos prison, Cyprus. "He told me I must have sex with men. He told me that if I shouted or made noise, he would kill me. I started to cry. He kept yelling that if I made any noise, he would kill me. "With only 16 years, Laura (name changed) left her home and got smuggled on a container boat to Cyprus with the promise of a better and easier life. When she was resold to another country she was caught at the airport with false documents. "I had told everyone my story: the airport police, the immigration officers, the court, the social welfare. No one cared. No one believed me." She was locked up in prison for weeks without a shower or hygiene products. "I wanted to die", she said.   

Paphos prison, Cyprus. "He told me I must have sex with men. He told me that if I shouted or made noise, he would kill me. I started to cry. He kept yelling that if I made any noise, he would kill me. "With only 16 years, Laura (name changed) left her home and got smuggled on a container boat to Cyprus with the promise of a better and easier life. When she was resold to another country she was caught at the airport with false documents. "I had told everyone my story: the airport police, the immigration officers, the court, the social welfare. No one cared. No one believed me." She was locked up in prison for weeks without a shower or hygiene products. "I wanted to die", she said.

 

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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     Survivors may sometimes have to wait for 2-3 months to be recognized as a victim of trafficking. . Victims of sexual exploitation may stay in the government shelter within the waiting period, but for victims of labour exploitation, there is no financial support from the government and individuals can only sustain their livelihood by receiving charitable help from local non profits. 

Survivors may sometimes have to wait for 2-3 months to be recognized as a victim of trafficking. . Victims of sexual exploitation may stay in the government shelter within the waiting period, but for victims of labour exploitation, there is no financial support from the government and individuals can only sustain their livelihood by receiving charitable help from local non profits. 

Non-profits on the island are endlessly and effortlessly on the move trying to prevent and intercept trafficking. Safe houses and transitional apartments are available with limited access.  Outreach programs are providing job training and mental health support are crucial but the employment opportunities that exist in the labour market are totally inadequate for victims of trafficking; they do not take into account victims’ needs, capabilities, and need for flexibility. Finding a source of regular income is crucial in helping survivors recover and get back on their own fee and programing by local non profits who teach job skills, hygiene, and psychological support is the first stepping stone on a long journey to a life in dignity. 


Although  migrant workers contribute significantly to Cyprus economy and everyday life, they are invisible in relation to policy and legislation as these relate to integration, violence against women, exploitation and trafficking of human beings. Over the past years only a few cases have been brought to light showing conditions of vulnerability of workers that speak to the context in which trafficking and forced labour develops, but the issue remains invisible.

 

Cyprus, 2015. Laura (name changed), a young girl from Central Africa is looking out onto her balcony. The transitional housing for survivors of trafficking offers long term accommodation for women and men who need a place to recover and heal until they are able to integrate back into society.   

Cyprus, 2015. Laura (name changed), a young girl from Central Africa is looking out onto her balcony. The transitional housing for survivors of trafficking offers long term accommodation for women and men who need a place to recover and heal until they are able to integrate back into society.

 

Survivors sometimes had to wait a minimum of six months to start receiving benefits after they are recognized as victims of trafficking. Within the waiting period, there is no financial support from the government. Individuals are at the mercy of charitable acts and local non profits.   

Survivors sometimes had to wait a minimum of six months to start receiving benefits after they are recognized as victims of trafficking. Within the waiting period, there is no financial support from the government. Individuals are at the mercy of charitable acts and local non profits.

 

Back in 2012, the Greek South part was ranked Tier 2 Watchlist with means that the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) were not fulfilled but the country would make an effort to combat trafficking. The Turkish North (which is not recognized as a country by the international community was ranked even worse, Tier 3, which means a zone of impunity for trafficking and forced labor.

Today, only the Greek side has made improvements over the last couple of years and is now Tier 2. The trafficking police has increased its raids on bars and nightclubs, but only a handful convictions could be achieved in the last year. There is much progress to be made.

Inscription in different languages on the wall are silently speaking to the hardships of prior tenants.  "Insensitivity, heartless, not feeling - Close the eyes, finish the life."

Inscription in different languages on the wall are silently speaking to the hardships of prior tenants. "Insensitivity, heartless, not feeling - Close the eyes, finish the life."


 

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: ISLAND IN THE SUN IS A WORK IN PROGRESS
AND WILL OPEN AS AN EXHIBITION in FALL 2016

For more information and partnership opportunities please contact
Maren Wickwire / maren@manifestmedia.de

In close relationship with local nonprofits and human rights advocacy groups in Cyprus,  the multimedia installation and web based storytelling project will highlight narratives of TCN that live, work and study in Cyprus, empowering participants share their perspectives and experiences, allowing us to draw attention to the issue, and promoting inclusion and long-term integration strategies instead of control and discrimination of the other.


An increasing need to raise awareness and foster empathy for refugees and migrants worldwide motivates me personally to explore participatory and inclusive visual storytelling with the hopes to instigate dialogues and sensibility towards protecting and sheltering the most vulnerable populations around the world.


 

This work was partially made possible in co-operation with Caritas Cyprus-Migrant Center