Why do foreign workers come to the TRNC?

By Ahmet Abdulaziz…

The foreign workers in any country usually bring a different culture to the host country. They bring with them a totally different world of their own, and try to adjust into a world which is totally different from their own point of view.

Here in TRNC, the foreign workers have usually been classed as those hailing from Turkey, and the others from the rest of the world. I use the term “rest of the world”, which in fact refers to workers from third world countries.

There is no need to have a look at the statistics of the TRNC work ministry, about the number of foreign workers in the TRNC, and their origin, because almost every day we all see a number of foreign workers wherever we go.

Some 25 years back, the workers coming from mainland Turkey used to work in all sectors in the TRNC, because they were getting somewhat higher wages as compared to Turkey. But, with the passage of time, everyone has noticed an influx of workers from countries other than Turkey.

Though workers from third world countries were also working in the TRNC previously, they were very few in number. The 1990s saw Pakistani workers coming in. The workers from Turkmenistan and other Turkish republics followed them. Subsequently, with the beginning of the 21st century, we started seeing workers coming from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Kenya, and many other countries.

Next to follow were the workers from the Far East. A large number of Filipinos crossed over to the northern part through the south of Cyprus. The Filipino workers are mostly women who work in hotels and in private homes.

Photo by on

It is interesting to note that there have been workers coming from as far away as Vietnam. There are a number of Vietnamese men and women working in different sectors in the TRNC.

All these foreign workers have added colour to the country. The skin color symmetrically now moves from white to black. So does the culture.

The foreign workers, in general, bring with them different social behaviour. Most of them try to retain their original cultural and social values. However, there is a minority that tries to adapt to the local culture. Indeed it is not easy for them. In most  the cases they get a reaction from their own countrymen.

For all the foreign workers, language is the most common hurdle. One must know the Turkish language to work in the TRNC. Though it is not a legal requirement, not having knowledge of the Turkish language makes it very difficult to communicate with co-workers and officials at the workplace. A number of foreign workers in the beginning try to start working at a place where there are other workers from their own country. In this way, through the passage of time, developing an understanding and command of the Turkish language. However, interestingly, I have found workers who have been working in the TRNC for a long period of time, but still their knowledge of Turkish is very poor.

Learning Turkish in Catalkoy

The foreign workers who also manage to bring their families with them, face many more difficulties in adjusting their children to the different social norms and cultural values. Thus in most cases, these children find themselves locked between two different societies. For them, the life away from their homes is totally different. Such a situation leaves both its plus and minus effects on their lives.

These workers can also be divided into two different categories. Very few are those who come to settle down here, and not return back to their country of origin. The majority of workers are here just to earn money, which they send back to their own country and aim to return back and settle in their own country after some time.

The workers in both of these classes live in the TRNC with totally different mentality, attitude and social behaviour.

But there is one question that most people have in their minds. Why do these workers come to TRNC, which is neither recognised by the world nor is as financially strong as European countries? The earnings of most of these workers in the TRNC are not very good, as compared to other European countries or the USA. Here again, I divide these workers into two classes.

Except for a few cases, the foreign workers are here just because they want to earn more than they could earn in their own countries. Some of these workers come here just because they could not go to some other European country or the USA. They come here and consider it as their destiny to work here.

A large number of foreign workers, however, think of using the TRNC as a spring board to reach any other country of the European Union. They continue struggling to achieve their goal. Some of them do succeed, either through legal channels or illegal channels. 

However, with all this going on, the TRNC in general is going ahead and developing, the credit of which mostly goes to the foreign workers, who work very hard to earn a living on one hand and to develop the country on the other.