Labour leader Andrew Little will make a last-ditch appeal to the Government not to deport a group of Indian students over fraudulent documents submitted by their immigration agents.
He told the 11 students, who have sought sanctuary in the Unitarian Church in Ponsonby, that he will contact Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today or tomorrow to ask him to "change his mind".
The students were notified last week that Woodhouse had declined to stop them being deported.
Senior Immigration NZ officials are due to meet the students' lawyer Alastair McClymont at 10am tomorrow in what is likely to be the first step towards implementing the deportation orders. However the students hope that the meeting may signal a change of mind.
Little told the students in a half-hour meeting at the church today once they appealed to Woodhouse the issue had become "political", so the minister could still let them stay.
"The minister has absolute discretion, so while you are here there is a chance for the minister to make a different decision," he told them.
"The minister is able to change his mind if they have a basis on which to change that decision. It's nothing ventured, nothing gained."
The students are the last group left in New Zealand of almost 400 students whose agents in India were found last year to have submitted fraudulent bank loan approval documents to prove the students could afford to pay their tuition fees.
Little said he had examined the documents of "half a dozen" of the students and was satisfied that the agents submitted the fraudulent documents without the students' knowledge or consent.
"When I saw you guys last year you explained to me that you left your papers in one state when you went to another state, and some of the agents for their own reasons went and changed them. So you have been let down by your agents," he told the group.
"That is why I think the minister is making an unfair decision. He should take that into account."
McClymont told the Herald he hoped immigration officials might have "something which will be attractive to our clients" when they meet him tomorrow, but he said it was their normal procedure to talk to lawyers before implementing deportation orders.
"Most of the time this is precisely what happens with people who are here unlawfully. Usually the negotiations are only around voluntary departure," he said.
"Immigration know where the students are. There is nothing legally stopping them picking them up, but that is not the approach they want to take because that is going to create a scene."
Woodhouse said last week that he delegated the decision on the students' appeal to Immigration NZ.
A spokeswoman said today that the minister had not yet heard from Little and had nothing to add to his previous comments.
Unite Union and the Migrant Workers' Association are organising a rally supporting the students outside the church at 3pm on Saturday.