Abuse claims of students in Northern Cyprus ‘exaggerated’

Authorities of Northern Cyprus have described the Nigerian government’s concern over human rights abuses against its students studying in the occupied territory as “exaggerated”.

University World News reported earlier in September about the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), a federal government agency, that has been issuing advisories to parents and students against seeking education in the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which covers about a third of the island of Cyprus and has been occupied by Turkey since 1974.

Damla Guclu, the director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) told University World News, in a letter dated 27 September 2022, that the country is one “with all its democratic institutions intact and where the rule of law prevails”.

“It is also committed to continuing its efforts to promote human rights and provide a secure and peaceful environment for all people living in its territory,” she said.

At an August press briefing, the Chairman of NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said: “Our students are being killed daily,” adding, “Think twice before going to Northern Cyprus. We can’t do much for Nigerians there.”

Two years before, Dabiri-Erewa said that over 100 Nigerian students were killed in the island country between 2016 and 2020 and lamented that local authorities did nothing to bring the culprits to justice.

Guclu described the allegations as “exaggerated”, but did not directly answer questions about the cases of the students’ deaths.

“Despite the fact that some unpleasant criminal cases have occurred, it would be wrong to portray these as part of systematic maltreatment against Nigerian students since, compared to the larger population, these figures are minimal and are not a high percentage within the total numbers.

“Without any prejudice as to their country of origin, we are responsible for every single person on our territory,” she said.

“Our authorities are doing their utmost to prevent all crimes and maintain order and the safety of the public, for protecting the young students, including the Nigerians, from becoming victims by falling into the trap of bad habits.

“Our authorities will continue to support the students to keep on the right path; continue their education and refrain from illegal activities,” she added.

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