Nine Indian students facing deportation orders for visa fraud have been told no action will be taken against them today.
Their lawyer Alastair McClymont has just told them that Immigration NZ's compliance operations manager in Wellington had given him "an undertaking that nothing will happen today".
"He has offered the students the opportunity to depart voluntarily. I have already reported back to the manager that that is not going to happen," he said.
"He really doesn't know how he is going to deal with it."
About 35 journalists and supporters are at the Unitarian Church in Ponsonby, which is sheltering the remaining students after one was detained this morning.
McClymont challenged immigration officials to lay legal charges against the students to allow a judge to decide whether the students intentionally defrauded officials.
"Under the Immigration Act, Immigration NZ has the ability to charge people with an offence of providing a fraudulent document and obtaining benefit from a fraudulent document," he said.
"By doing that they are able to defend themselves in court."
He said Immigration NZ had taken the position that the students were guilty because they signed their visa applications.
But Green MP Denise Roche said the students did not know that their agents had submitted fraudulent documents on their behalf.
"Frequently in their culture basically you hand over authority to whoever is doing it for you," she said.
However, a talkback host on Auckland's Indian radio station Radio Tarana, Pawan Prasad, said all seven or eight callers who rang her show today said the students should be deported.
"Many of them are from India and they know how it works in India," she said.
"According to them, the students knew they did it."
Nine students are at the church waiting to hear their fate.
Auckland councillors Alf Filipaina, Cathy Casey and Efeso Collins are at the church offering support.
But Unitarian minister Rev Clay Nelson said Mayor Phil Goff declined to come. His office told Nelson that Goff met the students last year but "can't see any more he can do".
Immigration NZ Auckland area manager Alistair Murray confirmed that one Indian student was picked up this morning and was being held in custody while travel arrangements were being made for him to leave New Zealand.
"INZ does not wish to comment further for privacy and operational reasons," he said.
"Anyone facing deportation has the opportunity to leave New Zealand voluntarily and INZ encourages them to do so."