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Cyprus 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Cyprus; Europe > Cyprus > Nicosia

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Cyprus has been assessed as Level 1. Exercise normal precautions 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Nicosia does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Nicosia as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Cyprus-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

Cyprus is generally a safe country and experiences less violent crime than other European countries of similar size. However, crimes of opportunity and crime-related incidents do occur. Most street crimes are non-violent, non-confrontational, and range from scams to petty theft. Most street criminals are unarmed and are not prone to gratuitous violence. Criminal activity in the northern part of Cyprus is reportedly low. The highest number of robberies in the Turkish-administrated Cypriot area were reported in Kyrenia, Famagusta, and northern Nicosia. Nationwide, areas frequented by tourists can experience petty crime. Rates of street crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatchings, other petty crimes) remain steady. Muggings, armed robbery, and harassment are uncommon but have been reported by local media. Thefts of valuables left in plain sight in unattended vehicles do occur. The number of opportunistic crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatching, car break-ins, robberies, home burglaries) is likely to rise during the holidays or during the summer when many homes are left vacant.

Residential burglaries became more common following the downturn in the economy a few years ago, although the number of burglaries reported has declined recently. Empty residences and homes without an alarm or other security precautions (shutters, additional locks on doors/windows) are more likely to be burglarized. Burglaries of commercial establishments (jewelry shops, convenience stores, sometimes banks) have also been reported.

Armed violence and assaults against the general public or targeting of foreigners remain uncommon.

Incidents linked to organized crime are a concern. Criminal incidents involving improvised explosives, incendiary devices, and small arms, primarily attributed to organize crime activity, occur infrequently. Online gambling is the originating cause of many crimes, including loan sharking, threats, blackmail, and even kidnapping, all of which have occurred in previous years. Sporadic bombings, shootings, and arson have occurred since 2010. These incidents typically involve conflicts between rival organized crime groups and have not been associated with terrorism. The attacks are usually designed to send a message to the intended recipient but occasionally also cause injury or fatality. These incidents have normally taken place in the late evening or early morning hours but may occur at any time. Most of the reported instances of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) found did not result in an explosion.

Cyprus is a trafficking destination for persons subjected to forced prostitution and labor. The government-controlled Republic of Cyprus (ROC) is a destination for sex trafficking that occurs in private apartments and hotels, on the street, and within commercial sex outlets. Domestic laborers, agricultural workers, and foreign migrants are vulnerable for trafficking for forced labor. In the unrecognized “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” (TRNC) sex trafficking is a significant problem. In 2017, 351 women, mostly from eastern European countries, worked on “barmaid visas,” usually as prostitutes, in officially sanctioned nightclubs, overseen by a “government” nightclub commission that denies prostitution is occurring. While prostitution is illegal under TRNC law, a trafficking law does not exist, and nightclub workers, who live at the clubs, regularly report that their passports are seized and that they have little freedom of movement.

Cybersecurity Issues

Fraud-related crimes remain low in relation to population size, but cybercrimes are increasing. Cybersecurity should be a priority for any company operating in Cyprus. The importance of using only legitimate software cannot be over-stressed.

Other Areas of Concern

Travel throughout Cyprus is considered safe, and there are no regions designated as off limits. It is illegal to cross into the buffer zone between the north and south except at the authorized crossing points.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Driving is on the left. A combination of human factors, poor road designs, and a general disregard for safe driving practices result in hazardous conditions for pedestrians and motorists.

Defensive driving is essential, as many drivers do not adhere to traffic regulations and are extremely aggressive. Incidents of reckless driving and road rage (tailgating, honking, shouting) occasionally result in traffic accidents and physical altercations.

The rate of serious vehicular accidents is higher in Cyprus than in the U.S. and the rest of Europe. Motorcycles and scooters normally drive between lanes and weave in/out of traffic at high speeds. Cyprus is among the top countries in the EU per-capita for traffic fatalities, primarily due to aggressive driving.

Pedestrians should take particular care, as sidewalks are either absent or narrow and are filled with potholes and tripping hazards. Where sidewalks do not exist, people walk and bike on the road, causing serious safety issues on the roadways. Pedestrian crossings at intersections designated by zebra stripes are difficult to see, and a pedestrian's right of way is often ignored.

In the Republic of Cyprus, the major roads in the larger cities are in relatively good condition, and street signs are usually in both English and Greek. The secondary roads are, in most cases, narrow two-lane strips with little/no shoulder. Street signs (when present) are small and offer little navigational value. Most drivers learn locations by landmarks rather than street signs.

In the north, roads are mostly narrow, two-lane roads with little/no shoulder. Street signs are mostly in Turkish with some in English. Street signs and most GPS offer little assistance in navigation.

The opening and closing of businesses and schools also affect traffic in Nicosia. Many stores close for 1-2 hours at lunch, and public schools let out at about 1300, causing traffic at mid-day. Rush hour is from 0700-0830, during lunchtime, and again from 1500-1800. Rush hour begins even earlier on Wednesday afternoons, when many offices close at approximately 1330.

Due to the lack of public transportation, traffic is particularly problematic in Nicosia where there are too many cars for the road system to handle. Traffic accidents often coincide with rush hour, and parking is difficult in congested areas downtown.

In the event of a car accident in the ROC, immediately contact the vehicle insurance company or the car rental agency to file a police report. Although a police report may not be required in a minor fender bender where both parties’ car insurance companies can handle the situation, a police report is required if there is serious damage or bodily injury involved. It is common for the police to request that a driver accompany them to the nearest police station to complete an accident report. In the north, immediately contact the vehicle insurance company or the car rental agency and file a police report. For information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation consists of bus service that travels throughout the island. Buses are safe and inexpensive, but service is limited in the ROC and the north.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The ROC has two major international airports: in Larnaca and Paphos. Both airports meet international standards for safety and security.

The north is served by Ercan International Airport, which is not a recognized entry point into Cyprus by the ROC; entering via Ercan can create issues for travelers if they plan on visiting the ROC.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Nicosia as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

International terrorism continues to be a concern, as movement between member countries of the EU is only lightly scrutinized. Cyprus has vulnerabilities associated with the de facto political division of the island and the relative ease with which people can move across the buffer zone undetected.

There have been no recent terrorist attacks in Cyprus. In 2012 and 2015, ROC authorities disrupted two Lebanese Hezbollah operations. In both cases, suspected targets were never determined or made known, but these incidents highlighted the ability of the Cypriot National Police to detect and deter terrorist operations.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Demonstrations against the U.S. in recent decades have been non-violent, focused on the official U.S. presence in Cyprus, and have not hindered the conduct of U.S. business activities. In late 2017, there were four demonstrations in the ROC in opposition to the announcement by the U.S. President recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Three were at the U.S. Embassy, and one was in the Old Town area of Nicosia. There was also a similar protest on the campus of Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) in Famagusta. All were peaceful. The ROC protests incorporated a mix of Palestinian expatriates, local leftists, and local human rights activists. The protest at EMU was largely of international students attending the university.   

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Nicosia as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

The prospect of large-scale civil disorder (violent, large-scale demonstrations) is unlikely. Demonstrations in support of international movements such as world peace and the environment are common, largely peaceful, and focused at government buildings. Demonstrators tend to occupy streets and block the flow of traffic. Economic conditions in the north have also led to demonstrations, primarily by public sector workers. Overall, in 2017, demonstrations were largely non-violent and resulted only in a few minor injuries and a small number of arrests.

Religious/Ethnic Violence 

Although uncommon, incidents of ethnic violence have occurred in the ROC:

  • In August 2017, a Turkish Cypriot taxi driver was attacked by supporters of the Apoel professional soccer club at the traffic light across from the club’s fan headquarters in Nicosia. The driver’s vehicle was severely damaged. The driver was returning from Larnaca airport where he had picked up tourists and was driving to them to the north.

  • In November 2016, a Turkish Cypriot taxi driver reported being attacked in his vehicle by two motorcyclists near the Ayios Demetios checkpoint. He was taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

  • In May 2016, a Turkish Cypriot vehicle was attacked on Makarios Avenue by a group of 150-200 Apoel fans. The attackers tried to open the doors but were unable to, but the car was lightly damaged. The Turkish Cypriots reported the attacks occurred opposite a Greek Cypriot police station, but the police did not intervene.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The possibility of earthquakes is a concern, as Cyprus is located in the world’s second most earthquake-prone zone. Minor tremors occur regularly, but most are imperceptible. There are 8-10 moderate quakes per year with the risk of a major quake ever-present. Most houses are constructed accordingly. The Earthquake Country Alliance provides Information on earthquake preparedness.

Critical Infrastructure

Cyprus has a good track record in industrial and transportation safety and follows EU guidelines. The lead ROC agency overseeing industrial and transport safety is the Department of Labor Inspection, which works closely with the private sector to ensure that best practices are followed in all sectors. The point of contact is:

Department of Labor Inspection

Apelli 12, 2nd Floor

1480 Nicosia

Tel. +357-22-405700, +357-22-405630

Fax: +357-22-663788

E-mail: director@dli.mlsi.gov.cy

Website: www.mlsi.gov.cy/dli

Economic Concerns

Economic conditions have improved since the financial crisis of 2013 although the unemployment rate exceeds 10%.

Economic espionage concerns are on par with other EU countries. Companies should take care to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of their data by following normal best business practices, including use of authorized IT software.

The ROC has robust Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) legislation, including on copyright, allowing the sampling of evidence, and facilitating prosecution of violators. Merchandise piracy has decreased significantly in recent years, largely due to aggressive enforcement by the Department of Customs and the police.

The IPR situation in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots is far worse than in the ROC. IPR legislation is antiquated, and the authorities have shown little initiative in combating piracy.

Privacy Concerns

Business and banking information tends to be processed professionally, and the Embassy is not aware of any particular privacy concerns arising from widespread misuse of such information. Companies may reach out to the following office to obtain information on addressing privacy concerns:

Ms. Irene Loizidou Nicolaidou

Commissioner

Office of the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection

40, Themistokli Dervi str.

Natassa Court, 3rd floor

1066 Nicosia

P.O. Box 23378

1682 Nicosia

Tel: 22-818456 / Fax: 22-304565

Email: commissioner@dataprotection.gov.cy

Website: www.dataprotection.gov.cy

Additionally, the following professional associations can provide more information to address privacy concerns:

Cyprus Bar Association

P.O. Box 21446

1508 Nicosia 

Tel. +357-22-873300 / Fax: +357-22-873013

E-mail: Cybar2@cytanet.com.cy

Website: www.cyprusbarassociation.org

Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus

11 Vyronos Ave.

1096 Nicosia

Tel. +357-22-870030 / Fax: +357-22-766360

E-mail: info@icpac.org.cy

Website: www.icpac.org.cy

Personnel Identity Concerns

While most travelers do not encounter problems, a few issues were reported over the last few years of travelers facing discrimination due to race, sexual orientation, and nationality.

Drug-related Crimes

The number of drug-related crimes has decreased slightly over the last few years. While illegal drug activity is considered low by most standards, immigration and customs officials continue to report increases in the amount of illegal drugs (hashish, marijuana, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine) being detected at ports of entry. With the opening of the crossing points through the UN-patrolled buffer zone in April 2003, it became easier to smuggle drugs from North Cyprus to the government-controlled areas. Penalties for the importation and/or sale of illegal drugs, even in small quantities, are severe. Incidents of drug-related violent crime are sporadic.

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If arrested or detained, American citizens are advised to contact U.S. Embassy Nicosia's American Citizen Services unit (ACS) in the Consular section. The Embassy's main number is 22-39-3939 and can be reached 24 hours a day. During business hours, the Embassy's ACS unit can be reached at 22-39-3939 Ext 3353.

Crime Victim Assistance

The ROC emergency contact number for the police is 199. Additionally, 112 can also be dialed in an emergency. It is a pan-European number that can be dialed to reach emergency services – medical, fire, police -- from any landline, pay phone, or cellular phone in Europe.

ROC Divisional Police Headquarters:

Nicosia: 22 80 20 20

Limassol: 25 80 50 50

Larnaka: 24 80 40 40

Paphos: 26 80 60 60

Ammochostos: 23 80 30 30

ROC Police/Citizens Communication Line: 1460

In the north, emergency contact number for the police is 155.

For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police/Security Agencies 

The Cyprus National Police is a centralized, national organization under the Ministry of Justice and Public Order. It is headed by the Chief of Police and headquartered in Nicosia. The organizational structure is divided into four main departments: Training, Administration, Support, and Operations. Under that structure, the police department has seven regional divisions covering the ROC. All areas of policing and law enforcement (immigration, emergency response, airport security, seaport police, criminal investigations, drug enforcement) fall under the Cyprus National Police, which is generally capable, and sufficiently trained. The emergency response unit (MAAD), which is responsible for riot control, major events and counter-terrorism, is highly trained and maintains a solid reputation.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services 

Global Air Rescue: +866-299-6870 or +305-514-0942

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Cyprus.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Nicosia Country Council currently meets once a year and has approximately 10 members. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe team with any questions.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Metochoiu & Ploutachou Streets

2407 Engomi, Nicosia, Cyprus 

Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0800-1300

Embassy Contact Numbers

Main: +357-22-39-3939 

American Citizen Services (during business hours): +357-22-39-3353

Marine Post One: +357-22-39-3300

Website: http://cyprus.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to Cyprus should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resources

Cyprus Country Information Sheet