Immigration New Zealand softens stance on Indian students in Auckland

Supporters of the students have held rallies at the Unitarian Church in central Auckland.
JASON DORDAY/FAIRFAX NZ

Supporters of the students have held rallies at the Unitarian Church in central Auckland.

A group of Indian students sheltering from deportation in a church may be able to reapply for visas from their home country.

The news comes after a group of students said they and 190 others had been ripped off by Indian immigration agents, who lied on official forms without their knowledge.

Immigration NZ said the group had no choice but to return.

The students want to be allowed to stay in New Zealand.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

The students want to be allowed to stay in New Zealand.

But on Friday their lawyer Alastair McClymont said officials had made an offer to the students in an attempt to resolve the situation.

READ MORE:
Immigration confirms it will deport one of the Indian students seeking sanctuary

* Religious leaders speak out over Indian students' deportation

Terms could be negotiated that would allow the students to re-apply for student visas from India.

The group of students have been bracing themselves for deportation
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

The group of students have been bracing themselves for deportation

This would not have been an option if they had been deported or had already departed, he said.

The nine students had an undertaking from Immigration NZ they would not be deported before February 22 to allow them to negotiate and reach an agreement.

But they would be required to leave after that.

There were emotional scenes at the Unitarian Church on Wednesday.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

There were emotional scenes at the Unitarian Church on Wednesday.

Just how solid the offer is remains unclear, however.

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In a statement Immigration NZ general manager Stephen Vaughan confirmed it had undertaken to not deport the students until February 22.

But he said there had been no offer or deal put forward by Immigration NZ and McClymont had suggested the voluntary departure offer himself.

Immigration NZ's position remained the same, that the student's must depart the country, he said.

On Wednesday one of the students was detained by immigration and was facing deportation.

Immigration New Zealand area manager Alistair Murray confirmed one of the students was being held in custody.

Travel arrangements were being made for him to leave New Zealand.

The rest of the group and supporters had sought asylum at a central Auckland church since last Monday.

The students had been sleeping at the houses of members of the congregation and had been advised not to go home. 

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has said 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.

Rev Clay Nelson, whose church had offered the students shelter, said it was almost certain they would leave voluntarily before the deadline.

On Saturday a gathering would be held at the church so the students could thank their supporters, he said.

"We didn't get the outcome we were looking for but we've shined the light on the fact there's something seriously wrong going on here."

 - Stuff

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