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New Zealand deports 150 Indian students for fraud

The students say they were unaware that their agents faked their financial information, and opinion is divided as to whether the agents, colleges, or students should be held responsible
BY Uma Asher |   08-09-2016

Nearly 150 Indian students in New Zealand are being deported after it was discovered that the agencies that facilitated their studies had faked financial information on their visa applications. According to some reports, more deportation notices are possible. The students who have been deported had paid tens of thousands of dollars to study there.

Many Indians, including India’s High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli in Auckland, say New Zealand and its educational institutions should crack down on rogue agents, instead of punishing their victims. According to one estimate, 60% of the roughly 125,000 international students currently in New Zealand relied on agents. Mike Treen, a spokesman for Unite, a trade union that is supporting the Indian students, was quoted in the media as saying, “These dodgy agents have not been held accountable and neither have the colleges where the students studied.”

Below is a video of a protest on Saturday, September 3, outside the office of New Zealand MP Paramjeet Parmar. The demonstration in support of the Indian students was webcast live on social media by an Indian FM radio station in Auckland (a longer video is here).

Media quoted Treen of Unite as saying the number of Indian students in New Zealand had surged in the last two years, and the government had made it easier for them to work there, knowing that it suited certain low-wage industries. Many of the deported students were reportedly fast-food workers.

High Commissioner Kohli has argued that the onus of preventing fraud by agents should be on educational institutions. He was quoted in the media as saying: "You cannot be advertising yourself as world-class teaching institutions, admit international students, charge them huge fees and then say, sorry, the visas were given without proper scrutiny of the documents, or that the institution which has admitted you does not meet necessary standards.”

Steven Joyce, New Zealand’s minister responsible for international education, was quoted as saying, “It's actually the responsibility of the provider to ensure that they know who their agents are and that their agents are acting ethically and legally.” He also noted that a new code of practice was in force since July, under which the right of education providers to bring in students could be revoked if their agents misbehaved.

However, Education New Zealand, the body which promotes international education in New Zealand, reportedly said that all students had to personally sign a declaration that the details in their application were true, regardless of the agent.

New Zealand has reportedly rejected 40 to 50% of student visa applications received this year, due to fraud. The country has a $3.3 billion international education industry, and the government reportedly wants it to raise that figure to $5 billion a year. Indian students are a big part of that boom. According to a Radio New Zealand report in July, Indian student enrolments rose from 12,000 in 2013 to more than 29,000 last year.

Deportation is not the only problem being faced by international students. New Zealand police sergeant and ethnic liaison officer Gurpreet Arora told Radio New Zealand that many Indian students borrowed heavily to study in New Zealand, and had been promised they could easily find jobs there to repay the loans. If that didn’t work out, some turned to other means, including crime and prostitution, Arora said. He added: “When those students… are desperate... there are individuals in the community who take advantage of that situation.”

One of the students facing deportation is Manoj Narra, whose family reportedly spent about $15,000 to send him to New Zealand so he could be the first person in his family to get a tertiary education. He arrived late last year to do a business course, and was due to graduate this year. A news report quoted him as saying, “I feel totally bad because I can't see even my family faces, because everyone was putting a lot of hope on me that I can achieve in my family something. How can I face them?”

Unfortunately, such things are not stray occurrences – these recent stories of fraud indicate a clear trend, and Indian students are particularly vulnerable:

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