[This is an excerpt from an article in the current edition of The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs].
Embarking on a misadventure of horror, seeking greener pastures in Europe has resulted in the death or enslavement of many young Africans. Most of them travel through the Sahara desert and Mediterranean Sea in order to reach Europe illegally. This traffic has been orchestrated by agents who promise a good life abroad. This article focuses on the plight of Nigerian students lured to Northern Cyprus.
Most of them are guaranteed good jobs immediately on arrival in Cyprus, but the truth is that there are no jobs in Cyprus and life is gruelling for foreign students. After arriving in Cyprus, they realise that jobs are badly paid. They usually work from morning till six in the evening before going to university. It becomes difficult to perform well in their studies owing to physical and mental exhaustion.
According to the Cyprus Mail ‘most foreign students who come to Northern Cyprus are genuine about wanting to earn a degree, but too often ill-informed about issues of day-to-day existence on the island.’
The cost of living is high, and house rents are extortionate. A three-bedroom flat costs not less than £400–£450 monthly and tenants are expected to pay a 6-month rent in advance, one month’s rent as commission and one month’s as a deposit. Unscrupulous elements take advantage of the foreign students’ credulity; they collect a huge amount of money from them promising accommodation. For example, certain Nigerian students arrived in 2016 and paid a sum of 3,500TL to a man who falsely claimed to be the landlord of a house. They became homeless. The case was reported to the police but the police did nothing. The university authorities were informed but they pleaded helplessness.
Foreign students work in restaurants and construction sites and they work hard. But they are paid in Turkish Lira while they need to pay their house rent in pounds and their tuition fees in euros. In desperation many turn to internet fraud, popularly called ‘Yahoo-yahoo’, and also recruit new arrivals into it. The government turns a blind eye even though the students target potential victims around the world. Foreign students engage in different kinds of criminal activities with impunity to get money for survival.
When I arrived in Cyprus in 2015 the island was rated as one of the most peaceful countries in the world because the crime rate was very low. But there has been a great increase in murder, burglary, drug dealing and illegal internet ‘business’ transactions.
The author Chigozi Obioma, a former student of Cyprus International University recounts his experience while in Northern Cyprus as follows: ‘There was nowhere to work to pay the next lot of school fees; no naturalisation or citizenship to aim for. There were only two options for survival: one was to fight for the menial jobs available with the often hostile immigrants from Turkish Kurdistan, Syria, Lebanon and other low-income groups; the other was to depend solely on sponsors back in Nigeria, something only a few could afford.’ (Obioma, The Guardian, 2016).
But universities in Northern Cyprus persist in using Nigerian educational agencies to attract students from Nigeria without providing any students’ support scheme. They are interested only in revenue.
Adesanya M. Alabi is with the English Language Teaching Department, Cyprus International University, Nicosia, Cyprus.
[Views expressed in opinion articles do not reflect the position of the Editorial Board of the Round Table.]