Venkat Raman –
More than a month after the government announced that a large number of students from India could be deported because they had submitted fake or fraudulent documents, uncertainty still hangs over the fate of these students.
No one seems to know the exact number of students facing the marching orders, but Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce placed the figure at 41, while some say that about 150 students would be affected.
Immigration lawyers, community leaders and even some politicians have taken up the side of the students but the government is adamant on its stand.
There have so far been three protests, one each in front of the ‘Out-of-Parliament’ offices of National MPs Dr Parmjeet Parmar (Mt Roskill) and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (Manukau East) and the third at the Lynfield Community Church in Lynfield Auckland, the last of which involved the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English and Dr Parmar.
The protest is likely to escalate with a planned march past and slogan shouting at ‘Auckland Diwali 2016’ which will be held at Aotea Square on October 15, 2016. Prime Minister John Key, Auckland Mayor-Designate Phil Goff and a number of ministers and lawmakers would be present at the event.
Migrant Workers Association has been supporting the affected students.
Spokesperson Anu Kaloti said that Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and his Associate Minister Craig Floss had refused to meet the students and the Committee of Representatives from The Catholic Church, The Anglican Church, Barrister Rodney Harrison QC and the Secretary of New Zealand Council of Trade Unions supporting them.
Ms Kaloti said that international students pay between $15,000 and $35,000 to study in New Zealand and a spokesperson for a group of nine students told ‘Checkpoint,’ a television programme hosted by John Campbell that they had no idea that the papers they had submitted were fake.
Ms Kaloti described the situation as ‘absolutely appalling.’
“I am really angry, furious and frustrated. These young people have spent so much money to acquire meaningful, high quality skills and qualifications and their parents have put all they have into it; and at the end of it, they are being punished for something they have not done,” she said.
Ms Kaloti said that a majority of the students came from middle or low income families and that they faced a dim future because of the deportation order.
There would be a lot of social stigma for the students if they returned home without a qualification, even though it was not their fault,” she said.
Mr Joyce said that the ultimate responsibility rested with the students.
“They have to make a declaration that all the information that they supplied to New Zealand is correct. They make that declaration when they submit their visa applications, and, yes, they get agents to advise them; but it is squarely and clearly the responsibility of the student.
“Now, we obviously want the agents to behave themselves well, and we know that some agents have not been behaving themselves. So, we have tightened up the rules recently. We put in new requirements in the code of practice that providers must be accountable for their agent’s behaviour. But when it comes down to it, it is the student’s declaration that they have supplied information that is correct, which is what Immigration goes on,” he said.
A similar problem is brewing in the State of New Jersey in America where more than 1000 people (a majority of them from India and China) are facing deportation after being caught in an undercover operation that involved a fake University set up by the US government to catch visa fraud.
The Police have arrested 25 suspects on felony charges that include conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Some of them could face long prison sentences.
“Foreigners who used the services will likely not be prosecuted, but will have their visas revoked,” New Jersey US Attorney Paul Fishman said.
Federal investigators set up the phony ‘University of Northern New Jersey’ in 2013. It had a website that promised ‘exceptional education’ for foreign students wishing to study in the US and provided links to academic programmes, a message from the ‘President’ (a Dr Steven Brunetti PhD) and photos of attractive young people sitting around a library table or consulting with a faculty member.
Read related story under Educationlink and our Leader, “Student victims deserve equal opportunity to learn” under Viewlink.