There are major problems in our education of foreign students. Cases of fraudulent student visas have created hardship for 190 Indian students. Most of the students have returned to India but nine Indian students and a toddler are now in a sanctuary in Ponsonby church. Their appeals against deportation have so far been turned down. The Immigration Minister, David Bennett (who has recently replaced the former Minister, Michael Woodhouse), could step in and allow them to stay on compassionate grounds. They should be allowed to stay.
The deportation is devastating for the students. Asha Rani, her husband and their two-year-old daughter would be deported. They and other students have invested much of their family money into their education, and now have deportation orders hanging over them.
This is an unfair situation that should never have happened. Most of the students caught up in the fraud say they did not realise that anything was wrong with their visas until they arrived in New Zealand. The problem involved fraud by agents in India, but tertiary institutes in New Zealand were also complicit through their poor admission standards, and Immigration NZ through issuing visas. It has been recognised for many years that there needs to be proper regulation of education agents, but the government has failed to take action.
This is an example of the government pushing for economic growth at any cost. The dash for growth in international education started in 2013, when the government gave the role of testing for English language to the tertiary institutions, even though they and the agents stood to profit from lowering the standards. The numbers of Indian students, especially in the non-university tertiary sector, more than doubled, reaching 29,000 in 2015.
This unregulated growth has come at the expense of students who have been defrauded and exploited in education, and then paid low wages and exploited when they have been trying to get work experience. Stephen Joyce, the former Minister for International Education, should be accountable for the failure to regulate the visas properly, instead of blaming the students.
These students are being punished for the government’s failure to regulate the agents in India and the tertiary institutions in New Zealand. Because of the failure of our government, many students have lost money and have no qualifications to show for it. They should not be punished again through deportation. Indian High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli has said it was "grossly unfair" to target students who had already started and invested heavily in their studies.
The Green Party supports a compassionate approach, and Green MP Denise Roche has provided support, including letters and a meeting with the Minister to call for the deportation orders to be dropped. We support international education, but it must be properly regulated to protect the quality of education, vulnerable students, and the long-term reputation of New Zealand education.
This year there will be an election. Voters will have a chance to vote to change the government. The Green Party will respect the rights of foreign students, and ensure that there are proper rules on our economy for the benefit of us all.
This article is co-authored by Raj Singh, Principal Legal Associates and Green Party candidate.