Central Auckland church offers sanctuary to Indian students facing deportation

The students say they will be staying at the church until Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse gives them a concrete ...
Amanda Saxton

The students say they will be staying at the church until Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse gives them a concrete answer.

Nine Indian students and one toddler have hunkered down at Ponsonby's Unitarian Church in central Auckland in a final bid to remain in the country.

The group came to New Zealand on fraudulent student visas, along with more than 190 others, and were issued deportation notices last year.

Mirza Shujdh, 29,  from Hyderabad, said he and his fellow students would remain in the church until they received "concrete ejection" from Immigration New Zealand.

"We are not criminals - so way are we being treated as though we have broken the law? This is our last hope," he said.

MORNING REPORT/RNZ

Pastor Clay Nelson at Ponsonby's Unitarian church says international students seeking sanctuary at the church could be deported any day but their predicament is not their fault.

READ MORE:
Church to harbour Indian students
Indian students plan last stand protest to avoid deportation over fake documents
Auckland Indian community protests over students' deportation

The students say they didn't discover their visas had been forged by dodgy agents until after they arrived in New Zealand.

Most of the students have completed their studies and are fighting for the year of work experience that was meant to be part of their visa deal.

Business student Mirza Shujdh, 29, said he hadn't told his parents he was facing deportation yet: "I'm the only one in ...
Amanda Saxton

Business student Mirza Shujdh, 29, said he hadn't told his parents he was facing deportation yet: "I'm the only one in my family with the opportunity to study in New Zealand and I'm afraid to disappoint them," he said.

Shujdh said the diploma in business administration he was awarded last year was not enough to start his career.

"I need to make a stand because I paid for and need that work experience - it is expected in India, or anywhere I'd choose to work."

He also feared a deportation stamp in his passport; "it means I can't go anywhere, and even within India it would be a hurdle to finding a job," he said.

Unite advocate Joe Carolan defends the students' right to stay in New Zealand from the pulpit of Ponsonby's Unitarian church.
Amanda Saxton

Unite advocate Joe Carolan defends the students' right to stay in New Zealand from the pulpit of Ponsonby's Unitarian church.

It was unclear whether or not the students would be marked as deportees if they left the country at this point, he said.

Ad Feedback

One hundred and twenty five of the affected students had already chosen to leave the country since the deportation notices were issued in May last year.

Rev Clay Nelson said his church had offered symbolic sanctuary to the remaining students - who are not Christian - because it was "morally the right thing to do".

The students were served breakfast at the church on Monday morning.
Amanda Saxton

The students were served breakfast at the church on Monday morning.

"They are being punished for actions that weren't their own and we believe they should be allowed to stay in New Zealand on compassionate grounds," he said.

"This [church] will be their home for an undesignated length of time until they're either packed up and deported or mercy has been given by the government."

The students moved into the Unitarian church on Monday morning and were given a breakfast of fruit and biscuits. While a statement from the church said they would be allowed in "by day", a number of students indicated they would be staying overnight.

Unitarian minister Clay Nelson said his church had decided to offer the Indian students "symbolic sanctuary" after ...
Amanda Saxton

Unitarian minister Clay Nelson said his church had decided to offer the Indian students "symbolic sanctuary" after lengthy conversations on Sunday.

Unitarians, union advocates and other supporters filled a third of the church's seats to make and listen to speeches about the students' plight on Monday.

Joe Carolan from Unite Union described the students as not only victims of a swindling visa agent but of wider economic perversion.

"There's a corrupt economic machine that's exploiting these students from start to finish," he said from the pulpit.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has been unsympathetic to the plight of the Indian students.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has been unsympathetic to the plight of the Indian students.

"Each of these students paid around $25,000 in fees to their schools as well as their visa fees - that's a lot of money for me, let alone for someone from a third world country - and they haven't taken a dime from New Zealand.

"They're being ripped off."

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said earlier that people were ultimately responsible for the accuracy of their visa documentation.

He said it was no excuse for the students to claim they were unaware of their agents' activities.

Immigration NZ's general manager for visa services, Steve Stuart, said the students had exhausted their options to remain in the country.

They have been invited to leave voluntarily, or "arrangements will be made for them to be deported".

The concept of sanctuary has no legal standing in New Zealand and Immigration NZ is expected to reveal its next move on Tuesday.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Best spring foods

Spring can mean a health food kick for those wanting that perfect summer-bod.

Get your hands on these seasonal spring foods to liven your meals.

Fletcher workers to strike

Workers at a Hunua quarry site owned by Fletcher Building will picket in protest over hours and pay.

Auckland quarry workers' union says their pay doesn't keep up with cost of living.

Mt Tiger resident concerned over poisoned bait

Andrew Randall says he is hesitant to  eat wild pork hunted on his property for fear the meat will contain brodifacoum  ...

Poisoned bait in a Whangarei forestry block has a resident concerned people and animals could unwittingly eat residual toxins.

This ain't no air-mageddon

Our jet fuel crisis has been handled a lot better than British Airway's IT meltdown in May.

OPINION: Another aviation snafu shows that New Zealand travellers could have it much worse.

Wellington

Eli gains loyal, helpful friend video

Six-year-old Eli Burkhalter with  his new assistance dog Taffy.

Taffy the golden labrador is a welcome companion for six-year-old Waikanae boy.

Kids sick on synthetics

Synthetic drugs, often mixed with dried leaves resembling cannabis, have claimed at least 20 lives in New Zealand this ...

Youngest was just 5 as three Porirua kids taken to hospital severely ill.

SH1 blockage cleared

NZTA advised of delays on around the Paremata roundabout and Mana on State Highway 1 after a three-car crash at Plimmerton.

Minor delays continue after a two-car crash near Plimmerton.

Capital train strike likely

Capital commuters are likely to face disruptions as rail workers prepare to strike.

Disruptions ahead for Wellington rail commuters as employment dispute boils over.

Canterbury

'Bound together by cancer' video

Christchurch father of two Kevin "Chalky" Carr received the news that his pancreatic cancer was back and his prognosis ...

Chalky Carr could have focused on his own cancer fight. Instead, he's raising $100,000 for a girl he'd never met.

Mum 'cannot grieve' video

Michelle Bishop is upset at the service received by funeral home Poppy Funerals following the death of her daughter ...

Michelle Bishop feels let down by funeral director who gave her Thin Lizzy for body and booked funeral at buffet restaurant.

Who won the final debate? video

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Labour party leader Jacinda Ardern speaks during the TVNZ Vote 2017 2nd Leaders ...

Jacinda Ardern looked and sounded like someone in a fight for their political life. And she is.

Just smile at the road rage video

30082018 News: GEORGE HEARD/STUFF

Stuff Reporter Julian Lee takes a day out in Christchurch to really see what people ...

They may not be rich, but these three blokes don't want for much.

Waikato

Fatal police shooting 'justified'

The grieving family of a man shot dead by police in the Karangahake Gorge near Paeroa.

Officer used fatal force because he believed machete-wielding man was about to kill.

City's $1b water park

The site could be home to an adventure park where visitors can try wakeboarding or scramble over an inflatable aquatic ...

Plans for a water adventure park, including housing, have been revealed.

Threatened at knifepoint

Police received reports of the robbery in Tokoroa at 10.05pm (file photo).

A dairy worker was threatened with a knife during a late night attempted robbery.

Massive slip crosses river

A slip, estimated between 10 and 20 hectares, has fallen from private farm land in Waitomo.

Rain-soaked landslide was so big and so fast that rolled over a river and onto a road.

Taranaki

Death of monkey at Brooklands Zoo

150816 News Grant Matthew/Fairfax NZ 

Cotton-top tamarin monkeys at the Brooklands Zoo in New Plymouth.

Nephrite leaves behind her 5-year-old daughter Inca, and Inca's dad.

Tight result predicted 

New Plymouth candiates
Clockwise from top left: Murray Chong (NZ First), Jonathan Young (National), Corie Haddock ...

Six New Plymouth electorate candidates still have more to do before they can relax

Ngā Manu Kōrero begins

Dr Ruakere Hond addressed the manuhiri (visitors).

Students from 52 schools across Aotearoa have arrived in New Plymouth for a speech competition.

Principal search

Lynda Stuart, president of the NZEI, said there are ore principal vacancies than usual.

Four schools are looking for principals, and another four are looking for deputies and assistants.

Manawatu

Another feather in artist's cap

13092017 Photo: MURRAY WILSON/STUFF		
Artist Joe Mcmenamin has worked with Lytton St School kids making a large, ...

Artist brightening up Manawatū streets with mural artwork.

Convicted killer sues 

Convicted murderer Stephen Hudson appeared by audio-visual link to the High Court in Wellington. (File photo)

Stephen Hudson was in Whanganui Prison, he's now in Rimutaka, but he wants to be at Tongariro.

Two service stations held up

The BP service station in Main St, Palmerston North, was robbed by two armed men on Wednesday.

Armed men entered a BP in Palmerston North and a Mobil in Levin.

House fire investigated

Firefighters put out a house fire in Eyre St, Feilding, early on Thursday.

Investigators are looking into the cause of a fire in an empty Feilding house overnight.

Nelson

Great Kererū Count due to start

Nelsonians have been invited to do their bit to help keep count of the nation's kererū.

It's time to get our your notebooks and keep your eyes peeled for New Zealand's native wood pigeon.

'What's a candidate?' video

Birchwood School students from left Jacob 8, Talei 9, Mia 8, talk to Stuff about their thoughts on the election and politics.

They can't legally vote until 2029, but they still have strong views on the election.

Who are you voting for?

Who are you voting for?

How are you voting on Saturday? Have your say in our election poll.

Home detention for sexual assaults

Ian Hopkins has been sentenced to home detention after being found guilty of indecent assault against three women.

A 75-year-old Nelson man given home detention over indecent assaults on three women.

Marlborough

Recycling in the bag

Pak 'n Save owner Mark Elkington with their new soft plastics recycling bin.

Millions of plastic bags destined for landfill can now be recycled.

The generation game

The chutney-taste test is a serious business for members of the Women's Institute.

The cavalry is coming for one of New Zealand's oldest institutions - and they've brought chutney.

'Taylor-made' for trees

The first planting event in 2014 saw  Marlborough Landscape Group members, from left, Helen Ballinger, Ralph Ballinger ...

 It began as an idea to enhance the river and has branched out into something much bigger.

When one door closes ...

Business owners Holly Bonnington, right, and Kay Nicholls (centre) at the Sneaky Beach Cafe in Havelock.

The Sneaky Beach Cafe opened this week in Havelock, much to the excitement of locals.

South Canterbury

Men's health focus of campaign

Jonty Penney from Timaru is participating in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise funds for men,s health.

Two Timaru men are taking the health message on the road.

Flow-on concerns

David Hurst, from A J Engineering in Washdyke, is concerned about the impact of the water levy.

Businesses concerned about impact of Labour's water levy, spokesman says concerns unjustified.

New Mackenzie CEO

New Mackenzie council chief executive Suzette van
Aswegen.

A current staff member will take on the top job at the Mackenzie District Council.

'He's a hero,' neighbour says

The remains of the Waipopo property on Wednesday afternoon.

Waipopo man who rescued wife from fire would have used 'every bit of strength'.

Otago

Search for missing man

Missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

More than 30 ground searchers, three search dogs and an aerial search have failed to find any further sign of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe

Serial sea lion killer at large video

A sea lion found shot on a Catlins beach in Southland in April.

A serial killer may be targeting New Zealand sea lions, with a $5000 reward on offer in exchange for the culprit.

Fired while on sick leave

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered Oamaru-based P&W Painters (PWP) to compensate former employee Paul ...

Company that unfairly fired brush hand while on sick leave also had to compensate an ex-staffer who was called a "baby killer".

Kidnapping duo plead guilty

Nick Miles, 24, and Gary Michael Wilson, 46, have admitted kidnapping a man and dumping him on the outskirts of Dunedin.

Two men kidnapped and dumped another man on the outskirts on Dunedin.

Southland

Youth organisations make appeal

Sam Balloch was one of dozens of volunteers seeking signatures for a petition to keep Number 10 One Stop Shop and ...

Number 10 Youth One Stop Shop and the Invercargill Secondary Schools Network are gathering support for their petition to remain at their current location.

Pound in clear

An animal group and the Invercargill City Council are at odds about how a dog was treated. (File photo)

Ministry for Primary Industries clears the Invercargill City Council over captive bolt use.

Forestry gets favour: ES

Nicol Horrell, chairman of Environment Southland.

''Forestry operators will be able to operate at lower environmental standards than other resource users in Southland."

Quake off Southland coast

A magnitude 5.8 quake struck near Southland.

A 5.8 earthquake hit off the coast of Southland - but its shaking was unnoticeable, GeoNet says.

Ad Feedback