From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Human Rights Platform, a Turkish based human rights group have raised concerns on the new human trafficking syndicates operating between Nigeria and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
NAPTIP spokesperson, Stella Nezan, in a statement, on Tuesday, noted that the human traffickers often times promised young Nigerians university education and work opportunities in TRNC, and once the students arrive at the territory, they are locked up in private apartments and forced into prostitution.
She explained that TRNC is a territory isolated from the world because it is not recognized as a sovereign state by any country except Turkey, and the country also struggles to implement the minimum human rights standards in many areas because of insufficient resources, capacity, and engagement with the international community, and the economy is based on two major sectors; tourism and education.
She added that TRNC with 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.
She said that hotline data of the Human Rights Platform confirmed that Nigerians form 70 per cent of the human trafficking cases, from November 2021 to date, and all are victims of sex trafficking.
“In March, 2020, TRNC criminalized human trafficking, but the authorities are reluctant to investigate cases. 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 that they are rescued, they are left with no assistance and protection from the authorities,” she noted.
She said the Human Rights Platform is currently the only organization that provides legal assistance and support to the victims, and trends show that victims that enter the TRNC with student visas are deceived by agents that are used as a shield by the traffickers, and 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.
NAPTIP asked Nigerian students desiring to go there to beware and ensure 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.
The Agency, however, advised anyone who finds his or herself in an exploitative situation in the TRNC, to reach out to it through their hotline line on +905428620060.
It also 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.