False promises and shady agents: How universities in Northern Cyprus are swindling African students

© Observers

Dreaming of a European diploma, and of eventually working in the European Union, many students – most of them African – spend thousands of dollars a year to study in universities in Northern Cyprus. Many of these students were reeled in by recruiters who get a hefty sum from these institutions. However, once the students actually get to Northern Cyprus, their dreams crumble. Some are barred from even entering the country. And things aren’t much better for those who do make it in, many of whom are surprised to learn that the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north is not actually considered part of the EU. Our Observers told us about the dubious methods employed by a system that values profit above all else.

"I applied and received my admission letter almost immediately,” says our first Observer, a young man from Sierra Leone whom we are calling Edward.

Excited, Edward arranged to travel to Northern Cyprus to begin his studies. But he met trouble soon after landing at Ercan International Airport on October 28, 2022: the border guards wouldn’t let him enter.

Edward tried everything to convince them. And, after all, he had a letter of admission signed by one of Northern Cyprus’ 21 universities, which is usually the only requirement for African students who want to enter. And yet, Edward’s passport was confiscated and he was forced to board the first plane back to his home country, with no explanation.

Our team spoke to a number of Observers, who said they were financially ruined by this scam. They told us about the nightmare experienced by hundreds of their peers on this island isolated from the rest of the world.

Omar says: