NAPTIP, Turkish rights group raise alarm on trafficking of Nigerians to Northern Cyprus

Around 70 percent of human trafficking cases in North Cyprus involve Nigerians who come to the TRNC as students, Nigerian online newspaper The Sun reports.

The Nigerian National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Turkish-based human rights group Human Rights Platform, both have raised concerns about new human trafficking gangs operating between Nigeria and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Spokesperson for NAPTIP, Stella Nezan stated that young Nigerians are offered the promise of university education with low fees and the opportunity to work in North Cyprus meanwhile, the TRNC itself is struggling with inflation and poor employment opportunities. She said that once they arrive on the island, they are locked up in private accommodation and forced into prostitution.

According to the Human Rights Platform, “In March 2020 “TRNC” criminalized human trafficking, but the authorities are reluctant to investigate such cases due to the lack of resources, ability and communication with the international community. There is absolutely no legal framework that protects and assists human trafficking victims and there is no shelter. 

“Hence, victims are often exploited for months with no access to law enforcement. Even in rare cases, they are rescued, they are left with no assistance and protection from the authorities.’’ 

The Human Rights Platform is currently the only organization that provides legal assistance and support to the victims. Trends show that victims that come to the “TRNC” with student visas are deceived by agents that are used as a shield by the traffickers. Most times, a Nigerian trafficker would approach the victims in Nigeria either face to face or online and convince them to travel to the “TRNC”.

The students have been advised to make sure that they have the financial means to cover all their university fees and living expenses, since the country is currently suffering from economic crises and job opportunities for students are dire. 

TRNC, which has a population of about 326,000 currently has 22 operating universities. However, the education sector carries significant risks according to the latest cases in relation to human trafficking. The student visa regulations are not stringent compared to other countries. As such, students can receive visas mostly with just a proof of university registration. It has been understood that the human traffickers have been abusing this procedure and contacting Nigerians, especially young women, to deceive them into going to “TRNC”. 

NAPTIP therefore, warned Nigerians who are being approached to travel to Northern Cyprus for university education to exercise extreme caution as most of those offers are from human traffickers who are capitalising on the loose visa procedures to traffic them to that country.

The TRNC economy relies mainly on tourism and education for its income. Currently, there are 22 universities operating in the country.

***According to Wiki, Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labour and forced prostitution. The U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons placed the country in “Tier 2 Watchlist” in 2022. Trafficked people, particularly women and children, are recruited from within and outside the country’s borders – for involuntary domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, street hawking. Wiki.

The TRNC was rated as Tier 3 [Ed.]

The Sun (Nigeria), LGC News

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