Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Deported Indian students: 'We haven't told our parents — how can we?'

A young Indian couple facing deportation with their 2-year-old daughter still haven't told their parents of the fate that has been hanging over them for nine months.

"We didn't talk about this at all - how can we talk? They are going to take very seriously these things," said Vikram Salaria, 33, who has been here for a year.

"My mother is a heart patient. It's going to have a serious impact on her heart."

His wife Asha Rani, 31, said she had not told her mother either.

"My mother is also a heart patient. She has already had open-heart surgery," she said.

The couple and their daughter Khwahish, who was born in India in October 2014, are among nine Indian students who were told this week that Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse had not acted on their appeals against deportation because their Indian education agents submitted fraudulent bank loan approval documents to show that the students could pay their tuition fees.

Woodhouse left the decision on their appeals to an Immigration NZ official, who turned them down.

A spokeswoman for Woodhouse said today that the students' appeals were delegated to Immigration NZ officials because new Associate Immigration Minister David Bennett's authority to handle appeals is still passing through Cabinet.

Asha Rani (left) and Vikram Salaria with their daughter Khwahish. Photo / Simon Collins
Asha Rani (left) and Vikram Salaria with their daughter Khwahish. Photo / Simon Collins

But the group plans to seek sanctuary in a central Auckland church and has been supported by church leaders in a political appeal to Prime Minister Bill English.

Rani and Salaria have left their home and are staying in a friend's house in case immigration officers come knocking.

Rani came to New Zealand first, in August 2015, to study a Level 7 business course at International College of NZ, which operates in the same premises as the International College of Homeopathy inside the Gandhi Centre, an Indian community centre in Auckland's New North Road.

"The agent said she can study one year and then get a work permit for one year," said Salaria, who stayed behind working in his parents' farming business in the Punjab.

Salaria and their daughter followed six months later, initially on a visitor visa.

"We were going to gain the experience of business here, we were going to work here. After that we are going to go back. I want to go back to the family business," he said.

But three months later, after Immigration NZ uncovered the Indian agents' fraud, Rani was issued with a deportation order. By then she had completed her business course and was hoping to get the work permit the agent had promised.

They went to a lawyer, Alastair McClymont, who lodged an appeal for Rani and helped Salaria to get a student visa to study business at NZ National College in Queen St, a school owned by Bucklands Bay resident Xiaoqing Liao.

Salaria still studies there part-time and works part-time as a security guard, using the student visa provision to work up to 20 hours a week.

He said the experience had cost $35,000 in tuition fees, agent's fees and other costs for his wife and $10,000 for himself.

His student visa is still valid but he will return to India with his wife if she has to go. His voice is barely audible as he talks about the family's future.

"We don't have any future after deportation," he said. "We can't go to any other country. We can't work in a big company [in India] after we get a deportation. It's going to be a really bad impact on us."

At 2, their daughter Khwahish is too young to know anything is wrong. She hardly stopped talking throughout her parents' interview with the Herald, although Rani said the child was not yet using language that they could understand. But her life will be affected by her parents' misfortune.

"It's going to be hard for her as well," her father said.

McClymont confirmed that the deportation order would effectively prevent the couple from studying or working in other countries.

"If they apply for Australia, for example, they would see that they have been here in New Zealand and that their visa finished quite some time ago. They would make inquiries with the NZ embassy and find out the history, and would decline the visa," he said.

"To get entry to another country they would have to lie because every single country will ask them, have they been deported."

McClymont said the qualifications earned by most Indian students here were "worthless" back in India.

"They would get much better qualifications than that in India," he said.

"They come here and do a Level 5 diploma. It's not because it has any value, it's a pathway to residency.

"The NZ Government and their agents sold their qualification as a pathway to residency. Everywhere you look on Immigration NZ and in the advertising by the agent in India, it's pathways to residency.

"They are sold a pathway to residency, not a qualification. Their qualification is a means to an end. If they didn't present it this way we would not get a single student from India."

Student visas from India plunged from 10,833 in 2015 to 6702 in 2016 after the rules were tightened to stop immigration fraud.

- NZ Herald

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