15 Jul 2008

Church shocked at visa scam involving pilgrims

8:59 am on 15 July 2008

The Catholic Church says it's shocked some Indian pilgrims en route to World Youth Day are apparently caught in a visa scam.

Some 32 people are missing from a group of 220 pilgrims who arrived in Auckland a week ago en route to Australia. Only 188 are expected to leave for Sydney on Tuesday.

An Auckland Justice of the Peace, Daljit Singh, has had contact with a number of the missing people.

He says at least 12 paid the equivalent of $15,000 to agents in India, who told them they could enter New Zealand with the group and stay on.

He also understands more members of the group plan to try to overstay in Sydney.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church in New Zealand, Lindsay Freer, is horrified.

The Department of Labour is investigating.