After a prolonged and jaded struggle of a group of deported Indian students who caught the national attention by taking sanctuary in Auckland’s Unitary Church two years ago, at least more than three are set to return to the country after Associate Minister for Immigration Kris Fafoi approved their application for a visa on compassionate grounds.

An official press release from the office of the Kiwi-Indian MP Labour’s Priyanca Radha Krishnan and Dr Deborah Russell on Thursday, April 18, confirmed that three Indian students who were caught up in immigration fraud and subsequently faced deportation have been granted a reprieve on compassionate grounds by the Government.

However, it could be a possibility that the number of students could be more than three. It is important to note 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.

The Indian Weekender tried speaking with immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont who was representing many of deported students to get a confirmation on the number of students, who refused confirm or reject any suggestion that the number of students could be more than three.

Mr McClymont had been previously critical of both, the previous National and the current Labour government for failing to deliver justice to deported Indian students who were victims of fraud by dodgy offshore immigration agents.

Meanwhile, Labour MPs Dr Deborah Russell and Priyanca Radhakrishnan, who have been advocates for the students and helped with the four cases where the Ombudsman found there were processing problems at Immigration New Zealand, expressed their rejoice on the outcome.

Will students return back still remains to be seen?

Nevertheless, it still remains to be seen if those students would choose to return back to the country after losing around $30,000 and facing destitution and social stigma back home after being first deported unceremoniously from New Zealand.

Associate Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has determined the students can stay in New Zealand with open work visas for a year.

Given the immigration changes introduced earlier last year whereby a three-year post-study work visa was introduced, with a limited or no clear pathway to residency, it is not sure if the deported students would risk another foray in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern (second left) offered help when she visited Rahul Reddy (centre) and others at the Unitarian Church then. File Photo: RNZ / Brad White

Hyderabad based Rahul Reddy, and Manoj Narra was amongst a few such students who took sanctuary in Unitary church and continued to seek reprieve from INZ, Ombudsman, and Associate Immigration Minister through their lawyer Alastair McClymont.

Will more deported students be lucky?

In early 2017, a group of nine Indian students had taken sanctuary in Auckland’s unitary church against Immigration New Zealand (INZ) deportation orders, causing a stir in national media.

However, what has mostly receded from the public attention is that during the middle of 2016, INZ has issued deportation notices to at least hundreds of students as an easy scapegoat to the rut in New Zealand’s immigration system, and a majority of them chose to return back voluntarily.

Government still needs to fix fraud in NZ Immigration system

Despite, the recent compassionate decision by Associate Immigration Minister, it needs to be reminded that the government needs to fix the agent-generated fraud in our immigration system.

What is also not clear yet, if the government had so far initiated any action after the Ombudsman’s earlier finding where it noted that INZ had failed to introduce any checks and mechanism to regulate or to monitor the actions of these agents. 

Rahul Reddy in Hyderabad (Image: RNZ)