The new Labour government is taking another ambitious stride by signalling intent to regulate offshore education agents – an area which by its own admission has not been regulated by any previous government, neither the National nor the Labour.

This was revealed by Labour Party List MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan, who was speaking at a rally on Sunday, October 29, organised by Migrant Worker Association, Unite Union and Auckland Unitarian Church at the Ponsonby Church in Auckland.

“Previous governments and this is both National and Labour governments, haven’t regulated offshore education agents.

“We will review this, and we may consider regulation as well,” Ms Radhakrishnan said to a full house audience at the Church.

“The Labour Party is absolutely clear that these offshore education agents act legally, ethically and appropriately.

“The Immigration Minister Honourable Ian Lees-Galloway is seeking advice on this and looking at how we can ensure this happens,” Ms Radhakrishnan further added.

Ms Radhakrishnan was careful in not overpromising to a largely expectant audience of Union members and other supporters of demand for bringing back 150 deported students.

The intent was more about future cases emanating in the international education industry.

“In terms of future cases that are similar to the cases of these students here, we have committed in the past, and we continue to commit to looking at them on a case by case basis.

“The Minister has said in principle where a student can demonstrate that there was no wrongdoing on their part and it was the agent who had acted fraudulently and not the student, then those cases will be viewed favourably,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

However, would that mean that the government is contemplating to bring back those deported 150 Indian students, is still not clear.

“In terms of these specific cases investigation has already been undertaken into the processes that students face [by Ombudsman], and we are waiting for the reports to come,” Ms Radhakrishnan told to The Indian Weekender.

On being probed further if the Labour government is going to bring back those 150 students, Ms Radhakrishnan reiterated, “We have to wait for the Ombudsman’s report before we can comment on the findings of that.”

Nevertheless, Migrant Worker Association and other support organisations raising this demand are drawing a lot of confidence from yesterday’s rally and seemed unperturbed from the fact that the government is choosing to wait for the report from the Ombudsman rather than intervening straightaway in favour of these students as promised earlier when in opposition.

“We take a lot of confidence from the fact that two MPs from the government were present in the rally. It gives us the confidence that this government is willing to listen, which the previous government was not,” Anu Kaloti of Migrant Workers Association told The Indian Weekender.

However, Ms Kaloti was non-committal of any time-frame given to the new government by their organisation for a favourable action on this issue and a clear plan of action if this issue was not addressed soon by the new government.

“We will carry on supporting students, and I guess the next step would be exploring legal pathways and going to High Court,” Ms Kaloti said.

To be fair to the government, it’s very early days, but going by its intent on several other issues, it needs to be mindful of not over-promising and under-delivering.

In this case, the representatives of government at the rally had clearly not given away anything substantial and yet not disappointed unions and those who attended the rally supporting the cause.

However, regulating offshore education agents, presumably for what many hold responsible for much of on-shore immigration woes, is an unchartered territory, which no other previous government has chartered so far.