NewsEuropeNorthern Cyprus has become a disappointing place for foreign students

    Northern Cyprus has become a disappointing place for foreign students

    In Northern Cyprus, controlled by Turkey, education has become the main economic sector. 23 universities are concentrated in the small self-declared state recognized only by Ankara, which has occupied it since 1974. There they attract students from developing countries by offering affordable courses with a “European” seal of approval. But some of these students fall victim to false promises made by their recruiters.

    With nearly 50,000 foreign students, mainly from Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, education has become a lucrative business in Northern Cyprus.

    According to the authorities, it generates a third of GDP, more than tourism. To recruit students, universities employ so-called agents, often alumni.

    They are paid a commission – up to $800 per student – for each person they enroll. But this system leads to abuses, particularly by African agents. On social networks, these agents make several promises that can be exaggerated.

    “Most of the experiences that people here have when they come to an agent is that they say, ‘You’ll find a job, it’s easy to find housing, it’s cheap, there are opportunities to get a scholarship.’ When in reality it is very limited. All the people who come here are shocked by the reality they discover. I have friends who also thought they would have easy access to other European countries,” says Magazi Ahmed, a Sudanese student and member of the Voice of International Students (VOIS), an association that lobbies universities and authorities to end the agent system.

    The campus of the University of the Eastern Mediterranean in Famagusta, one of the leading universities in Northern Cyprus. © Erika Olavarria

    The false promises of these agents can have serious consequences. Thousands of students find themselves penniless. Many of them end up dropping out of college.

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    Although their courses, which cost between 3,000 and 5,000 euros, are relatively affordable compared to European or American private universities, they have often only paid for the first semester, convinced to find a job to finance the rest of their course.

    But job offers are rare. And since the tuition payment acts as a visa, not doing so is tantamount to being in an illegal situation. Some students go to prison before being expelled to their home country. Some simply prefer to return home, sometimes after only a few months. Others decide to cross to the south of the island.

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    For almost half a century, Cyprus has been divided between the northern part, which was occupied by Turkey in 1974, and the southern half, the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the EU.

    Since the green line that separates the two entities is not heavily policed, crossings are frequent. According to Cypriot authorities, just over 19,000 people crossed in 2022, most of whom held student visas for Northern Cyprus. Many dream of obtaining asylum or trying their luck in Europe.

    Once in the European part of Cyprus, hope often gives way to disappointment. Many are unaware that only a small minority of asylum claims are accepted: 331 people obtained refugee status in 2022.

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    The Cypriot authorities do not report how many applicants were rejected. But 21,565 applications had been filed, in addition to thousands of ongoing applications dating from previous years. About 70% of the migrants who arrived in 2022 were deported that year, according to the website InfoMigrants.

    Source: France 24

    This post is posted by Awutar staff members. Awutar is a global multimedia website. Our Email: [email protected]


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