As many of you will be aware from your own experience, when applying for a visa you are required to make a declaration that all the information you have supplied in support of your application is true and correct. New Zealand has a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and the Government makes no apologies for holding people to account if they have obtained their student visa fraudulently or haven’t followed the rules.

International education is an important industry to New Zealand, with more than 100,000 students coming to New Zealand every year to study and the Indian market is a big part of that. On the whole, Indian students make an incredibly valuable and contribution to the community. The majority of students come here to study, complete their qualification, and then go home again, satisfied with their experience.

However, for those who have taken a shortcut in their application by submitting fraudulent information, this behaviour does catch up with them and there are consequences for it. That is the situation we seeing with the nine Indian students who are taking sanctuary in an Auckland church.

I strongly encourage those nine students to leave New Zealand voluntarily. This is the best option for them. The longer they remain here, the worse it is going to be for them. If they leave voluntarily, there will be no financial barrier to them returning to New Zealand. However, if Immigration NZ deports them, they will be required to pay back the costs associated with deportation before ever having a chance of returning to New Zealand.

It’s unfortunate that some dodgy off-shore agents sell the international education experience as an east pathway for residence for student. That is not the case and it’s certainly not a commitment made by the New Zealand Government. Unfortunately, this can result in disappointment when students are then required to leave at the conclusion of their study. I understand that most of them have, in fact, completed the qualification they came to New Zealand to get, and it that is the premise on which they came to New Zealand in the first place, now that they have completed it, they should leave.

Our community has a great reputation in New Zealand and we contribute a lot, both economically and culturally. But this sort of behaviour by a small minority reflects badly on all of us.