The recent situation where an international student went to ask for assistance from the police after facing economic difficulties, only to be arrested for his irregular status since September 2020, in the country, highlights salient issues which are often not discussed enough in the public sphere. lt presents different facets of some of what’s wrong with a lot of processes that concern international students in TRNC, and it's Universities.
It’s quite disappointing that the authorities are lacking compassion in this case. We’ve seen how the pandemic has exacerbated the already precarious economic situation of a lot of people. This is why the State even embarked on a Food Aid program.
It is my understanding that anyone who is brought before the TRNC courts is put in handcuffs, however this still lacks compassion and personally I think there was no reason why the student had to be put in handcuffs as if he were a criminal, when all he was asking was help from the State. Article 14(3) and (4) of the TRNC constitution provides for the right to human dignity regardless of the crime. This continued heavy-handedness by authorities especially towards these international students and how certain issues are handled, are part of the reasons why there is growing distrust in the institution, especially in other spheres like housing issues and working conditions issues. This is also why students don’t bother much with reporting matters that affect them to the police, even when they have legal status on the island. They don't believe that solutions come out of it.
One would think that the TRNC's history and experiences in the international community, would make it more sympathetic to its vulnerable minorities. International students are huge contributors to the country’s economy, but we continue to be treated as if we’re nonentities. It is headlines like these that paint a dark picture of this Island and why the number of students coming here is on the decline. Instead of taking practical steps to address students' grievances, the authorities gloss over pertinent issues and come up with things like the so called ‘Student Friendly Island Initiative’ for instance, which sought to give students money instead of addressing their problems. Problems like how residency permit costs continues to increase annually where students have to pay huge amounts of money every year to obtain one, and how students are treated as cash cows in many spheres of the society, by universities, house owners and so on.
I sincerely hope the authorities reflect on this and try to take a more humane approach which embodies a really Student Friendly Island. This also calls for an urgent need to regulate Agents who bring students to this Island on all sorts of lies. Equally complicit in this are the Universities who often come up with all sorts of marketing strategies to bring students to the island, but fail to take care of their grievances once they are on the island.
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