Iraqi Kurdish youth face a tough choice: endure unemployment and corruption at home, or try to sneak into Europe at the risk of financial ruin, or even death during the perilous journey.

The specter of unemployment haunts both students and teachers at universities in northern Iraq. Many speak of growing numbers of empty seats in classrooms across the semi-autonomous Kurdish region — seats once occupied by students who have left for Europe, AP reports.

Those who remain, like 21-year-old law student Zhewar Karzan, are making plans to leave.

He sees no future at home, in the town of Ranya, nestled among picturesque mountains, rivers and Lake Dukan, the Iraqi Kurdish region’s largest lake. A college degree provides no guarantee of a job, and his parents struggle to pay the bills, he said.

Come spring, Karzan plans to try his luck and leave with other hopeful migrants. His brother Jiyar, who in 2016 paid a smuggler to take him to Italy from Turkey, eventually reached Britain and now supports the entire family back home while working in a pizza restaurant.

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