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14 Jul, 2009 04:39

Death in paradise

A beach heaven for some, for thousands of girls, Cyprus becomes a deadly trap. Lured by promises of exotic jobs, they get caught up in sex trade.

And according to one desperate Russian man that’s exactly what happened to his daughter, Oksana Rantseva, who was found dead on the sidewalk in central Limassol eight years ago.

He has taken the Cypriot government to the European Court of Human Rights to prove his daughter was actually murdered.

Cyprus police claim that the 21-year-old Russian interpreter committed suicide by jumping from a balcony. However the autopsy performed in Russia revealed that the young woman’s body was subjected to two sharp impacts, which would be inconsistent with hitting the ground once.

Another clue is that the place where body was found does not equate to what would be the trajectory of a fall from the balcony on the top floor of the building. All of which may suggest that Oksana was murdered.

Her relatives believe that, instead of an interpreting job promised by a recruiting agency, the woman was forced into prostitution and killed.

Her father has visited Cyprus six times to investigate Oksana’s death, and has taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

“From the very moment Oksana’s father applied to European Court of Human Rights, we accepted that the violations of her rights took place, and we do accept the responsibility of the Republic of Cyprus,” says Petros Clerides – Attorney General of the Republic of Cyprus.

While local police are preparing to investigate Oksana’s case once again, other victims are speaking out.

Olga came to Cyprus from Moldova. She managed to escape from her job at a cabaret, where girls were encouraged to have sex with clients after the show. Many others, Olga says, are still in danger.

”When I came to Cyprus, I came because of my personal problems, and I didn’t know what kind of job I would have when I got here. At the place where I came, the boss took the passports from the girls,” the former cabaret employee relates.

Workers from Eastern European countries outside the European Union get less protection under Cypriot law than EU citizens.

Father Savvasa Mikhaelidis – a local Orthodox priest, who helped Olga and dozens of other girls – says there is no simple solution to the trafficking problem.

“I save one girl, three or four more come. So, we have to fight the problem at the root,” he told RT.

Some Russian newspapers contain dozens of ads for jobs of waitresses and exotic dancers abroad, which, some say, is just a camouflage for a modern-day slave trade.

Several watchdog groups in Russia fight against human trafficking through rescue, education and counseling. However their lawyers are still overwhelmed by the number of new victims.

”Human trafficking is the third most-profitable criminal business after the gun and drug trades. This type of crime is lucrative, because you can only sell firearms once, but you can sell a woman many times and get constant income,” Afsona Kadyrova, a lawyer at the Moscow-based “Angel Coalition” group said.

The Cypriot authorities recently abolished so-called “artists’ visas” for cabaret dancers, and imposed stricter employment guidelines. But government critics are demanding further restrictions for people from outside the EU wanting to work on the island.

Meanwhile, desperate job seekers somewhere in Eastern Europe are probably considering yet another offer, like waiting tables for €5,000 a month. Such offers could lead to virtual slavery, or even worse, like Oksana Rantseva’s case, finding her death in paradise.