$25,000? Yes, that’s what it takes for an international student to study here in New Zealand. The country has been a major destination for a huge number of Indian students and the Government’s revenue has increased in the recent years due to this. Many are given rosy pictures by their agents back in India of landing a respectable job after their studies here but in reality, it’s not the same. And recently, a group of Indian students is facing deportation because their agents faked the documents for their student visas. This has stirred quite a tension here in NZ. The students claim they weren’t aware of the forged documents. If this is the case, then we raise this question: Is it right or wrong to punish the students when they are actually the victims in this case?

These students have taken educational loans and sold properties to finance their education. High hopes and dreams wait for them back in India and now being sent back without a degree plus not being able to repay the money they had spent to come here are going to put them in a vulnerable position. Apart from this, many international students are struggling to find jobs in NZ after their graduation in spite of possessing exceptional skills. It’s understandable that the companies put New Zealanders first but after this scam, is it going to affect the image of the remaining Indian students in landing a job? Are the employers going to see them differently? Will they look down on them? On what basis of trust are they willing to recruit them? Will Indian students be neglected by the job market not wanting to take a risk? Are they going to face racism in college?

All these questions are hanging in the air with no answers. And of course, this whole issue jeopardises the existence of Indian students in NZ. In face of this issue on Saturday, protesters headed to meet MP Parmjeet Parmar in Mt Roskill pleading her to intervene. Neither the agency nor the college is being held accountable which questions fair justice on New Zealand government. The Immigration New Zealand has been provided with the names of the agents and yet the situation remains the same.

In light of this issue, students are highly recommended to check their papers before going abroad for studies. Though the fault may be on the agency for faking papers, the responsibility also applies on the student’s part to ensure their agency or agent act ethically. Before the final step, students are asked to sign the papers declaring all the information provided is true. A little effort from the student’s side to research about their agents and check the papers before signing it off could have prevented this issue. As the proverb says, ‘prevention is better than cure’.

WORDS BY INDUMATHI CHITRAMBALAM.