The news of Indian students who took sanctuary in Auckland Unitarian Church last year (2017) when facing deportation liability notice by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is set to shake-up the public attention again, with the latest Ombudsman report failing to offer any immediate reprieve to those expectant students. 

The long-awaited Ombudsman ruling on the visa situation of the (in) famous Indian students holed up in Auckland unitary church, which was released on Thursday, June 21, did not bring much good news for the nine students who captured national attention in early last year.

The students had then eventually left New Zealand buying in the promise made by INZ that their voluntary departure would deter any permanent damage to the chances of returning back to country legitimately. 

Their immigration lawyer, Alastair McClymont, had then told the Indian Weekender that his negotiations with INZ were not about cancelling deportation order itself, rather it was about how best to keep alive student's chances to apply for new student visa in future and to not permanently jeopardise student's chances of re-entering NZ on valid visa documents.

To start with, both INZ and the Ombudsman’s report have failed to deliver on a promise seemingly extended to students so brazenly then.

Three of those students had submitted applications after returning to India, but they were subsequently declined for reasons that will likely to apply to every other student who reapplies for a visa.

The latest Ombudsman report also falls short of ameliorating their situation and chances of getting back to New Zealand so as to redeem their pride and respect. 

Speaking to the Indian Weekender today, Mr McClymont expressed disappointment on Ombudsman's decision to discontinue his investigation into INZ’s actions in making students solely responsible for the alleged fraudulent practices of off-shore education agents.

“I asked the Ombudsman to investigate and comment on the wider circumstances of exploitation within the unregulated education agent system, which is a core component of the export education industry.

“The Ombudsman ignored this request and accepted without question or comment INZ’s placing of the blame fully on the students, while entirely ignoring the wider context in which offshore education agents operate, and the motivation and opportunities that agents have to not only defraud INZ but to defraud international students,” Mr McClymont said.

The good news is that as a result of the appeal made by Mr McClymont and his team on behalf of a group of Indian students, the Ombudsman has accepted the offer by Immigration NZ to review the files of 213 student visa applications (randomly selected).

However, there is no specific directive in to include or not include the cases of those students who took sanctuary in the church.

The only shining light is that the case of four students in the church sanctuary is part of a group of seven students, whose case, Associate Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi has agreed to look on the compassionate grounds.

In New Zealand immigration system, Associate Immigration Minister is responsible for reviewing individual immigration cases on compassionate grounds that are referred to the Immigration Minister.

The limitation of this avenue from a wider perspective is that even a favourable outcome on individual applications would do little to fix the problems plaguing in the NZ’s immigration system, argues Mr McClymont.

“INZ has shown either an astonishing ignorance of the sophistication and complexity of agent-generated fraud or it has exhibited a willful blindness, Mr McClymont said.

Mr McClymont also took exception of the fact that the Ombudsman’s office has noted that although Immigration NZ operated within the law in finding the students solely responsible for the actions of the New Zealand schools’ agents, it decided not to put in place any mechanism to regulate or to monitor the actions of these agents.