The Government is considering tighter regulation on immigration agents who deal with foreign students.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says if students deported over their dodgy documents are telling the truth about being duped, the Government has an obligation to "make sure their reputations are not besmirched by the actions of others".
Earlier this year a group of Indian students facing deportation sought refuge in an Auckland church, claiming they had no idea their documents had been forged. They were eventually kicked out, with then-Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse refusing to grant any leniency. "Effectively those decisions have already been made. [The students] have sought ministerial intervention; that has been declined," he said in February. "They're unlawful and they need to leave New Zealand."
Many of the approximately 150 students have since struggled to find work back home. "We feel like all the doors are being closed for us," Hafiz Syed told Newshub at the weekend. "We don't know which way to go now, and we really can't find any jobs for us now."
Ms Ardern told The AM Show on Monday "if they knew what was going on, then we should treat the case as such" "If they didn't, we should also have regard they were unwittingly drawn in by individuals who acted as agents and acted illegally."
The Ombudsman is looking into the Indian students' cases. A spokesman for new Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told Newshub he's waiting on the outcome of its investigation before making a decision. After that, new rules may follow.
"Successive Governments, both Labour and National, have looked whether or not we need to individually regulate the way those agents work," said Ms Ardern. "When it comes to agents who work solely with students, both successive Governments have chosen not to. I think we need to have a look at that."
Many low-value courses marketed to foreign students are likely to be dropped, with Ms Ardern expecting the cuts to make up about a third of the Government's target of 30,000 fewer immigrants annually.
Combined with the dodgy documents scandal that's affected Indian students, Ms Ardern says they're not a good look for New Zealand.
"When it comes to export education, we want a well-run, thriving export education sector where New Zealand's reputation is enhanced and people get value for money. I think New Zealanders would want that too. We don't want people taking advantage of dodgy courses."
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