A central Auckland church has stepped up to offer sanctuary to a group of Indian students who face being deported from New Zealand.
The students entered the Unitarian Church in Auckland’s Ponsonby early on Monday morning, Joe Carolan from Unite union said.
The group came to New Zealand on student visas, for which they had paid about $20,000 each back in India.
It was only after they arrived that they discovered their supporting visa documents had been forged by the agents.
Immigration New Zealand notified them in writing last year that they would have to leave the country because the fraudulent documents meant their visas were not valid.
More than 190 students have been issued deportation notices since May 2016, and 125 have already chosen to leave the country voluntarily.
However some are refusing to go home without a fight.
“We gave up everything to come here, there is nothing left,” 23-year-old student Harjeet Singh said on Thursday.
Fellow student Mohammed Salman, 24, said he felt guilty knowing how much his family had sacrificed so he could come to New Zealand.
“It’s very difficult for us,” he said.
“How can we show our faces to our parents? How will they feel?”
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said people were ultimately responsible for the accuracy of their visa documentation.
He said it was no excuse for the students to claim they were unaware of their agents’ activities.
Claiming they didn’t know what their agents did is as believable as the sports stars who fail drug tests claiming they didn’t know something was prohibited.
The fact is they entered New Zealand under false premises. If you allow them to stay on, on the basis they allege they did not know what their agents did, then you’d incentivise many many more agents and applicants to do the same.
The students should sue their agents – that is who their beef should be with, if they genuinely did not know the applications were fraudulent. However I expect that they personally did have to sign the application forms so should have been aware of what they were submitting.