By Ahmet Abdulaziz …..
Over a period of time, the number of foreign workers in TRNC has increased manifold. Back during the 1990s the workers from mainland Turkey used to make up about 90% of the foreign workers in the TRNC. They are still the most, but not now 90% of the foreign workforce.
As we walk on the roads in Lefkoşa and Girne for example, we can see that the workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Kenya, Somalia, etc are working everywhere. The other day I came across some foreign workers who were from Vietnam. Honestly speaking, it is strange that workers come from a place as far away as Vietnam to work in the TRNC, but indeed there are some that do.
The foreign workers in TRNC can be classified in different categories.
There are some who have migrated here with family, and are working here. They have come here and settled down. Some of them have even established their own businesses, and are well settled here.
The other group, which is the largest one, comprises of those who have come here to earn a living. Most of them live alone, with their families back in their home country. They send funds to their families. They stay here jointly with other friends of their like. Their lives revolve around working and earning money. They are ready to work whatever, even on holidays, only if paid, since this is the only reason behind their being here. They usually do not mix a lot with the local people, and prefer to remain within the circles of their friends from their homeland, with whom they share the same language and culture.
The third group is relatively new in TRNC. These are the foreign students who work part-time. These students too can be sub-divided into two categories. In one category are those students, who have come here to study, but do work part-time to meet their educational expenditure. Some of them do get some funds from their parents, which usually is not sufficient to meet their expenses. So they have to work part-time to survive financially.
In the second sub-group are those workers, who are not real students. They have come to the TRNC as students, but in fact they use their student status to stay here. They work here to earn, to pay off their educational expenses as well as to send money back home or to save money to settle in the TRNC permanently. In fact they do face a very hard life, since they have to pay to the university and have to go there too, to continue as students. But there are too many such foreign workers who are leading their lives under such difficult circumstances.
The presence of a foreign workforce is essential for development of the economy of any island. The same is the case with the TRNC also. However, what is important is that these foreign workers should be absorbed into the local society, by learning the local language and mixing with the local population. They should be a part of local cultural norms.
Unfortunately when we look around, we see a totally different situation. The foreign workers in general prefer to keep a distance from anything which is different from their own homeland. I know many such foreign workers, who have worked in the TRNC for over 20 years, but still cannot speak the Turkish language. There are also many such workers who prefer to wear the attire of their own homeland. Some of them prefer to roam around in their national dress. This becomes evident if you go to the Girne area during a holiday.
However, we must not forget that these foreign workers are our main economic force, their presence helps the country. They are here for a reason. Let them have a good time too.