3 Feb 2017

Indian students plan to seek sanctuary in a church

From Morning Report, 7:39 am on 3 February 2017

Nine Indian students will seek sanctuary in an Auckland church today, defying their orders to leave the country after their appeal to the Minister of Immigration was turned down.

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Photo: RNZ / Bradley Ambrose

The Unite Union are organising an event on Waitangi Day at an inner-city Auckland church, where the students - and the 2-year-old daughter of one of them - will resurface.

The students said they would hold sanctuary there until Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse intervened and cancelled their deportation notices, or they were forced to the airport.

Sanctuary does not hold any legal status in New Zealand.

Asha Rani, Hargeet Singh, Hussain Syed, Manoj Narra, Shahad DM, Mohammed Mohammed and Pradeep Reddy were all at Unite Union's office last night.

They said they had no option but to fight the orders, and Immigration New Zealand was playing with their lives.

Ms Rani's husband, Vikram Salaria, was in tears.

While he was a student with a current visa, he said he would have to return to India with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter if they were forced to leave.

"[It's] really shameful over there for us, for our parents it's really hard."

He said the students had paid a "really big price".

The students insisted they could not be held responsible for the fraudulent documents that got them into the country in the first place, and said they had no idea what their Indian education agents were up to.

Being deported would ruin their lives, they said.

"We can't apply for another country and to society I will be a fool; in front of my parents we wasted our parents' money; in our lifetime and our future we can't go anywhere. It's a dead end for us," one student said.

Most of the students have told their parents their student visas have been pending.

"Some people didn't explain to their parents until now," said one student.

One student said he did not even tell his father, because he was not educated and would not understand.

Mr Shahad said his mother was in hospital for a heart condition and he worried what would happen if he told her.

The students said they were an easy target and the New Zealand government should take responsibility for the poor systems that allowed the fraud in the first place.

"So how can they blame us - only us? Not the agents, not the department, not the officers?" Mr Mohammed said.

Mr Narra said in India there were streets full of immigration agents. He could not understand how he was supposed to know which agent was good and which was bad, he said.

Immigration New Zealand should have a list of trusted agents on its website, so students in the future would not face the same situation he now found himself in, he said.

Five of the students, who are represented by immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont, received their deportation letters yesterday.

The letters said the student was liable for deportation and may be deported at the discretion of Immigration New Zealand.

The letters encouraged the students to make their own arrangements to leave.

Mr Clymont said once the students were served, they could be deported at any time.

"Some cases, we find they will react within a day and you'll find immigration officers and police at someone's door. Other times you find that they never do anything, and it really seems to be a matter of how easy it is for them to actually arrest and deport somebody."