Stranded in Northern Cyprus

Reportage for ARTE · 2023

"We connect you to your dreams"

- for some international students in Northern Cyprus, this promising slogan becomes reality. But for some, the dream of a good education ends in hell: forced prostitution and slavery.

Garoua-Boulaï Cameroon

Hubert, a young Cameroonian, dreams of studying in Europe. Through a family friend, he learned about the study opportunities in Northern Cyprus. Simple visa regulations, low tuition fees: this also convinced Hubert to transfer his entire savings to an agent at the university. He and many others were sold a study package that seemed perfect.

Lefkoşa Northern Cyprus

Human rights lawyer Yağmur warns against this development. Since 2021, she has been fighting for the victims of exploitation and forced prostitution who were lured to Northern Cyprus with the prospect of studying.

The new students bring money and false hopes. For many students, Northern Cyprus is seen as a promise of educational opportunity. Once on the island, they have to come to terms with a merciless reality.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has become an alternative to Europe in the higher education sector. Thirteen new private universities have been founded in the last ten years alone. Nearly one-third of the country's residents are students. Along with tourism, higher education is the island's most important industry.

But the ease with which student visas are issued has also opened the gates to criminals. Moonlighting, prostitution and human trafficking are on the rise..

The research trip November 2022

We took two weeks in Northern Cyprus to get to know the country, the people and our protagonists. Why do so many people want to go to Europe? What does Northern Cyprus have to do with it?