International students need better protection

Export Education must be overhauled

Alastair McClymont –

The plight of the latest group of Indian student deportees is yet further proof that we need a thorough overhaul of our system of export education to create better protection for our international students.

We also need better oversight of our local private training institutions, so they become more vigilant about the agents they select to work on their behalf.

The students’ protest has helped to highlight what they’re up against and has opened up a necessary public debate.

Dodgy agency thrive

Indian education agents already identified as ‘dodgy’ continue to run their agencies in India, their business uninterrupted. The teenage students being deported are collateral damage. A fresh lot of victims is about to arrive. At my law practice, we see them every day.

Following my eight-month battle for justice for the affected Indian students, there’s been increased public awareness about the inconsistencies and injustices relating to the student visa process.

This has contributed to the national debate about our export education industry. It has also exposed government indifference to the plight of the Indian students threatened with deportation in its focus to protect this $2.85 billion industry.

The government is obviously unwilling to regulate the agents because it may well create a competitive disadvantage for New Zealand with other countries. We are not the only country that doesn’t require education agents to be regulated.

Deportation cost

But what about the human cost of deporting these young, vulnerable Indian students? Hard-won family savings invested in their education will be lost and not recoverable. If they return home disgraced, it will bring public shame on their families. They carry huge guilt, feeling a strong obligation to repay their families by becoming successful and gaining a residency visa.

The status of the group of nine Indian students sheltering with the Ponsonby Unitarian Church in Auckland has now been resolved.

Immigration New Zealand has discussed the process under which this group of students I represent may apply for visas to return to New Zealand.

Agreement with INZ

We have now reached an understanding as to what the appropriate process should be.

Eight of the students who had sought sanctuary in early February at the Ponsonby Church have now agreed to depart New Zealand on or before either Sunday, February 26 or Monday, February 27. In return, INZ has undertaken not to detain the students for deportation, providing they depart voluntarily prior to midnight by the last agreed date.

The students and INZ have discussed the process under which they may apply for visas to return to New Zealand, and we have reached an understanding as to what the appropriate process should be. This is a successful outcome for these students given the circumstances, particularly if the Ombudsman agrees to intervene on their behalf.

They are happy to have their applications for student or work visas reconsidered when they return to India, but they want the ability to do this without having the status of being a deported person hanging over their heads and without a five-year ban on re-applying. They also want to be able to make the case again that they had no knowledge of the fraud committed by their education agents.

Pathway to Residency

The New Zealand government promised these students the opportunity to apply for graduate work visas once they completed their qualifications. They promised that study here is a ‘pathway to residency.’

Instead, students have been conned by India-based agents representing New Zealand schools.

And the Government’s only interest appears to be protecting their income.

Alastair McClymont is an Auckland-based Immigration Law Specialist

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