Deportation is a word that sends shivers up most ordinary people’s spines. Having invested all they own and can find financially, emotionally and socially, being deported out of a country that they want to make home temporarily or long term is every migrant’s worst night mare. Social stigma attached to deportation is so overpowering that most people fail to consider that the deportees may be innocent and being victimised.
The issue of deportation orders being handed out to International Indian students in New Zealand has taken over much of the media and political arena to some extent in the last few months. Hundreds of students mainly from Hyderabad and Punjab are affected by the unfair deportations. Unfair because India based unscrupulous immigration agents acting on students’ behalf submitted fraudulent financial documents as evidence for living expenses to Immigration New Zealand. The agents have been committing this fraud together with corrupt Indian bank officials. The students had no knowledge of this fraud. This fraudulent activity has been revealed in an investigation report publicised in June 2016 by Immigration New Zealand’s Mumbai Area Office. How is it fair to punish the students for something they have not done?
Some responsibility must also be taken by the Private Training Establishments (PTE) in this entire mess. Since receiving deportation orders the affected students have been almost abandoned by the PTEs and been referred back to India based agents who are nowhere to be found. Many have been stopped from attending classes. New Zealand Qualification Authority’s code requires all PTEs to comply with Pastoral Care of International Students whereby the PTEs are responsible for the students’ mental health and wellbeing.
However, the largest, the most critical and the most influential responsibility sits with the New Zealand Government. Let us start with the National government list MPs of Indian origin. New Zealand has 2 at present that conform to this category. When requested to intervene on behalf of the affected students, both MPs have been repeating standardised statements handed down from the bosses - the matter is in the hand of Minister of Immigration and it would not be appropriate for them to comment etc. One of the MPs went as far as comparing the students with fridges imported to New Zealand from China that are returned to China if they are found to be faulty on arrival in New Zealand.
The students and their supporters formed a delegation consisting of representatives of the affected students, The Catholic Church in NZ, The Anglican Church in NZ, Secretary of NZ Council of Trade Unions, leading human rights lawyers and members of civil society. This delegation requested in person meeting with the Minister of immigration. After consistently making contact with the Minister’s office for two weeks the delegation’s request was rejected on the basis that the Minister does not deal with individual cases. One has to wonder at the ability of NZ government officials to grasp basic information. Hundreds of students are affected by unfair deportations and the delegation had clearly stated in their request that the aim of the meeting was to seek amnesty for all affected.
Further to this some cabinet ministers and MPs have been claiming in media interviews that many students facing deportation have been involved in criminal activity in New Zealand. This a very careless and irresponsible statement as this manufacture’s public’s consent to label all student facing deportation as criminals. On one hand the government is unwilling to meet the delegation as ‘it would not be appropriate to discuss individual cases while they are being investigated.’ And yet on the other hand the government is happy to label ordinary people as criminals without providing any evidence. Where is justice?
Help has also been sought from the Indian Government by requesting the Indian High Commissioner in New Zealand to intervene. Several tweets have been sent to Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister. Neither have helped in any way.
The actions taken in support of the affected students by Migrant Workers Association along with other supporting organisations (NZ Council of Trade Unions, Unite Union, Socialist Aotearoa, First Union, The Catholic Church, The Anglican Church, The Labour Party of NZ, The Green Party of NZ, The Communist League, Racial Equity Aotearoa, Panthak Vichar Manch, Azad Rang Manch, Radio Inqilaab) have consisted of public meetings, a petition, 5 protests in six weeks, extensive media interviews and many awareness raising sessions. This has now truly turned into a campaign that is gathering strength very fast. The evidence lies in the fact that the Prime Minister of New Zealand and many of his MPs are consistently being asked by media and the public about the student deportations and what the solution is. 2017 is a general election year in New Zealand and before that one of the Auckland constituencies with a large Indian population will have a by-election in December this year. Immigration is one of the main points for most political parties in the upcoming elections but even more so for the governing National party.
Most international students are given entry into New Zealand to study not so useful courses. As a vast majority has to work to live, they end up in jobs that pay very little and mostly well below the legal minimum. New Zealand is effectively bringing in cheap labour under the guise of export education. This government has to stop treating people like commodities and it has to provide meaningful opportunities for all in New Zealand. Like most capitalist countries New Zealand also suffers from concentration of wealth in the hands of few. The ordinary people need to understand this phenomena and hold the government accountable, and not the migrants, for speeding up the killing of an already dying economy.
While the students and their supporters have been successful in building a strong campaign, the journey is not over until the demands have been met.
Student demands are very simple and straightforward:
Cancellation of deportation orders
Permission to stay in New Zealand to complete education
Permission to apply for one year open term work visa upon completion of education
Migrant Workers Association