Our front-page story in this issue of 23 young men from Punjab living in New Zealand for the past two years without a proper job makes heart-rending reading.
Apart from having extracted large sums of money from each of them prior to their departure from India, their employer is alleged to have forced them to sign documents seeking refugee status. The fact that the application was filed by an immigration consultant, taking additional money was not only highly reprehensible but also pathetic.
Indians do not flee their home country and seek refuge elsewhere. It is an insult for the country and its people that an Indian employer and an immigration consultant were at the centre of this scam.
The number of cases involving rogue employers and immigration consultants who defraud gullible public appears to be on the increase but the trend can be reversed with greater vigilance and discretion.
It is understood that people of Indian origin are the most common victims since lack of experience, the urge to seek permanent residence status and facilitate migration of the members of the immediate family are among the factors that prompt them to rush to the nearest immigration consultant or accept any employment offer.
In many cases, such people are quickly relieved of their hard-earned money and left in the lurch.
Potential immigrants who arrive here on visit visas or those entering the country on other types of status (refugees for instance) apparently look up the yellow pages of the phone book and choose a consultant at random and entrust the job of processing their applications.
In other cases, those with permanent residence status are keen to bring their family members and seek the advice of such consultants.
That is when the trouble starts
While well established and reputed consultants not only offer professional and genuine advice but also account for a high success rate in terms of enabling applicants to achieve their objective of migrating to New Zealand.
Deregulation has led to a large number of consultants offering their services in New Zealand. People should be careful in selecting the firm or individual to deal with and not respond blindly to advertisements. The Licensing regime which is in force, has somewhat disciplined the consultancy business.
It is now time to discipline some employers as well.
The need for a qualified and experienced immigration consultant cannot be over-emphasised but the choice of a firm that matches promise by performance is even more important. Consultants should be transparent in their dealings. They should not mislead, give false hopes or overcharge clients. They should also understand the anxiety of applicants.
Employers who bring migrant labourers on work permits should be made responsible for their actions.
Official sources in New Delhi said the Indian government was serious in addressing the problem of rogue employers and immigration consultants and immigration fraud including marriage scams.
People should come forward without fear and lodge their complaints with the ministry and appropriate action will be initiated.
While recent amendments to the Indian Emigration Act have tightened the systems and procedures and made it difficult for perpetrators of fraud, the Indian Government is also working with foreign governments to contain the problem.