6 Feb 2017

Plea to PM: Grant Indian students 'amnesty'

3:20 pm on 6 February 2017

Nine Indian students seeking to avoid deportation for visa fraud have taken up residence in a central Auckland church saying they want justice from the government.

The Indian students and their supporters outside the Auckland Unitary Church in Ponsonby.

The Indian students and their supporters outside the Auckland Unitary Church in Ponsonby. Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

The students are spending their days at Ponsonby's Unitarian church where they say they are seeking sanctuary as they make a last attempt to stay in New Zealand.

The nine students refuse to leave the country after an appeal to the Minister of Immigration was declined, after their India-based education agents submitted fraudulent documents.

But the students' supporters say international education is big business for New Zealand and the system is rigged against the students who trusted dodgy immigration agents.

The Unitarian Church's Reverend Clay Nelson agrees and said his congregation wanted to take a stand for justice.

"There's a lot of people going wink wink and turning a blind eye to the greater problem, we think these people are being used as scape goats to make it look like they're doing something about the problem, when they're not even touching the problem."

Indian community leader Sunny Kaushal is also calling on Bill English to allow the group of Indian students facing deportation to stay.

"If this government can soften rules for billionaires to gain citizenship in New Zealand [and] allow ... duped Filipino workers caught in an immigration scam be given amnesty to live in New Zealand - there is no reason why these students can't be allowed to complete their studies against the fees they paid in full," Mr Kaushal said.

Sunny Kaushal said the Prime Minister and Finance Minister should intervene in the case.

Sunny Kaushal said the Prime Minister and Finance Minister should intervene in the case. Photo: Supplied

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said on Friday the students were not victims and needed to leave New Zealand.

He said anyone who submitted a visa application was ultimately responsible for ensuring the information on it was correct - no matter who filled it out.

Mr Woodhouse said other students who were caught up in the same investigation left voluntarily.

Mr Kaushal said it was wrong to make the students pay for crimes they did not commit.

Foreign students and workers caught in similar cases in the past were allowed to stay, he said.

"These vulnerable students are the victims of a wide spread fraud, their overseas based agents used fake financial documents."

Government agencies needed to review their failings in supervising education providers and the visa process, he said.

"I am calling upon Prime Minister Bill English and Finance Minister Steven Joyce to intervene and save our export education sector that relies on international students.

"We need to ensure a robust system is in place and that international students be given a fair play for New Zealand to succeed in achieving an ambitious goal of $5 billion by 2025," he said.