Stalemate over Indian studentsSave
By Simon Collins
The Government and nine Indian students facing deportation over immigration fraud appear to be stuck in a stalemate.
A steady stream of supporters, including Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, have visited the students to offer support this morning at the Unitarian Church in Ponsonby, which has given them "sanctuary" since Waitangi Day.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has effectively ruled out sending agents into the church to detain them even though another student was caught at his home yesterday and is being sent back to India tomorrow.
"This is a place of religion, a house of God, and I don't think it's appropriate that people get wrestled to the ground and taken out in a church," Woodhouse said yesterday.
The students' lawyer Alastair McClymont said the Government seemed willing to wait until the students left the church.
"These guys can't stay there forever. They will wait for them to drift off," he said. "It's just a stalemate."
The students said they were determined to stay.
"I am not running from this situation, I am not absconding anywhere. I am asking for justice," said Manoj Narra, 27, whose parents paid $20,000 for his business information systems course at UUNZ, a company that offers courses in association with the University of Southern Queensland.
Narra finished his studies in December but has still not received a certificate from UUNZ, and the deportation order has torpedoed his plans to do one year's study and then get a one-year work visa.
"The study, I can study the same in India," he said. "I came for the work experience that will boost up my career when I go back to India, because it's a multicultural workplace here."
But he said his career would be ruined if he was deported.
"It's putting a tag on my reputation," he said. "We can't go anywhere."
Pradeep Reddy, 23, said he would not be able to get a job or go to any other country because of the deportation.
"Now I have no idea what to do," he said.
The students say they were not aware that their agents submitted fraudulent bank details to Immigration NZ to prove that they had enough money to pay their tuition fees.
Restaurateur Krishna Jampani, who has been delivering food to the students, said he applied to study in one college when he came here on a student visa in 2009, and was surprised when he was accepted by another college, which he had not applied to.
"The agent applied for me, because the agents are looking for the commission," he said.
McClymont said the students faced tough decisions.
"The hardest decision for them to make is that they really feel like they are imposing on the hospitality of the church and the church congregation. They feel terrible about it. That is the thing that will compel them to leave," he said.
But church minister Rev Clay Nelson said the students were "still very welcome". He has said the church was offering "radical hospitality", welcoming everyone in as if they were Jesus.