Auckland: The faces of Indian students deported earlier in the year bore grins and tears as they were beamed into an Auckland church via Skype.
Ponsonby’s Unitarian Church was hosting a rally to remind the new Labour government of their support to the students, after it emerged their supporting visa documents were forged by agents in India.
Reverend Clay Nelson said the rally was sparked by the change in government and aimed to get the 150 students back to New Zealand.
More than 100 people attended the event on Sunday, including original members of reggae band Herbs — who performed a number of songs to kick things off.
“Many members of the new government came to offer support to the students while they were being given sanctuary here earlier in the year,” said Nelson.
“The full circle will be when we are able to welcome them back here.”
Some students left voluntarily while others were kicked out of the country in February, after drawn out protests — attempts to convince the government to allow them to remain in New Zealand — and a period of symbolic sanctuary offered by the Unitarian Church.
Most of the students had completed their studies and were fighting for the year of work experience that was meant to be part of their visa deal. They maintained they didn’t discover their visas had been forged by dodgy agents until after they arrived in New Zealand.
The students have said their unorthodox departure from New Zealand has left black mark on their records and they have struggled to convince employers in India they are not international fraudsters.
Nelson said he hoped the new government would allow them back to complete their work experience, “which many students had been relying on to help fund their studies”.
“It was an injustice deporting them in the first place as they themselves did nothing wrong,” he said.
He said himself and members of his congregations had kept in touch with the students since their return to India.