Solidarity for Sanctuary – no deportations!

Unionists and members from the wider community came together last Saturday afternoon in a show of solidarity with 9 Indian students facing deportation. The students, many of whom have finished their studies, face deportation as it was discovered that agents in India had falsified documents without their knowledge.

The students were lured to New Zealand under the pretense of being able to live and stay in New Zealand and with the guarantee of a one year “Student job search” visa. With information from websites such as telling students that “You don’t have to come back to India if you successfully complete your studies in New Zealand.” Past, present and future students are being sold the idea of being able to live and work in New Zealand if they only pay extremely exorbitant fees to dodgy tertiary institutions, Visa agents and the New Zealand government.

MPs such as Marama Davidson (Greens) and Andrew Little (Labour) have come out pledging support for the students, adding to growing pressure on the government to take mercy on the students and let them stay in New Zealand. In response to this mounting pressure it appears the immigration minister Michael Woodhouse,who has previously stated the students need to leave New Zealand, has passed the buck to associate minister David Bennett. The students’ lawyer Alastair McClymont told the gathering in the Ponsonby Unitarian church that no further action will be taken against the students over the next few days as Mr Bennett reviews the case.

The community has come out in huge support for the students with donations of food flooding the kitchen at the church. The students have spent the last week during the day at the church while going off at 5pm to stay at safe houses for the night.

These students’ futures have been a political football over the last few months with many National MP’s criminalising and making derogatory statements towards the students. National List MP Kanwaljit Bakshi compared the students to “Faulty fridges” last year, and then stated in the Indian Weekender on February 10, “I strongly encourage those nine students to leave New Zealand voluntarily”. Each of the students have payed over $20,000 to study here and through the words of people such as Mr Bakshi we can see the government views them as no more than a commodity ready to be shipped out of NZ once their money is spent.

Similarities have been drawn with the treatment of Pacific Island immigrants through the 70s and 80s whom after arriving and working in New Zealand for decades, were eventually told they were surplus labour when economic recession hit. This resulted in the campaign of dawn raids of the 1970s and a racist campaign let by Robert Muldoon into scapegoating Pacific migrant workers for the lowering of wages and shortage of jobs. In a similar way, anti-migrant sentiment is being stoked by politicians to deflect attention from the real causes of low wages and the housing crisis: the bosses. And students like these are paying the price.

The visa agents in India have faced no action as a result of scamming these students and the government still has no intention of registering or penalising these dodgy visa agencies. With 100,000 international students coming to New Zealand to study every year, education makes up a huge part of the New Zealand economy. The government’s focus is on the money. These actions serve to earn a quick buck, but can irreparably damage the lives of students, whose chances of a decent job, or even being able to leave India again, are destroyed by this deportation.The students deserve all workers’ solidarity.