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Student issues generate huge social impact

Kamil Lakshman – Pilot Programme to-Kamil Lakshman Web

The international student conversation I started in this newspaper in 2014 and in other forums from 2010 has now become a national debate!

Articles across the country have reported the shenanigans relating to the ongoing post international student schemes including prostitution, and less then savory employment conditions. Researchers and university experts are spending hours, funding on understanding the problem.

Popular investigations

The Labour Inspectorate is kept busy and staffing increase are justified as migrant exploitation cases continue to rise.

The Employment Relations Authority including the mediation services and the investigative hearings are popular refuge for those hard done, lucky if they get that far. However, avoiding accountability by changing directorship leave these bodies with no teeth and the victim with no recourse. New companies start up and the shenanigans start again.

There are further reports of buoyant cowboy offshore operations where non suspecting and easily impressionable victims are recruited and sent to study low level qualifications on the pretext of getting a positive immigration outcome and in turn huge profits are being made in recruitment fees.

New Legislation

Organisations such as Education New Zealand have been established to cope with such issues, new legislation has been passed to provide protections, and compliance have been increased to ensure the victims are eventually packed off to their home countries with a status of deportee for life and thus resulting in an inability to travel to other countries.

Immigration New Zealand together with various other government officials are on a back foot trying to police and protect against potentially unsuitable entrants into New Zealand.

In a haphazard attempt of assessing bona fides Immigration New Zealand have started an undesirable practice of questioning potential students and when not satisfied with their responses a decision is made that a person should not be studying a particular course. This is a stance completely out of their brief.

Punishing fraudsters

The fraudulent academic qualifications and English tests coupled with rogue recruiters all add to the lively environment that this industry presents.

Lawyers, Compliance, Courts, Ministers and MP offices, Parliament, Ombudsman and many branches and divisions of the various government departments, community groups and NGO are kept busy by this area.

The labour market is rapidly changing with practices that New Zealand has been innocent about, complicated syndicates are being newly formed as available market exist.

In a recent article in the Dominion Post the following was said and is quoted in verbatim:

“Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says Private Training Establishments (PTEs) are strongly monitored and the industry should not be smeared. He said that the international education industry was ‘robustly monitored’ and generated $2.85 billion annually and 30,000 local jobs. He said people with concerns about PTEs should contact NZQA or Immigration New Zealand, not ‘smear’ all providers. Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse told the MP complainants that they should contact the Immigration Adviser’s Authority (IAA). But Tertiary Education Commission Chair Christine Clark said that the industry was already heavily regulated. They are weeding out the culprits. But the IAA could not prosecute people overseas, and could only deregister licensed advisers. It’s a very weak system. Woodhouse said a review of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act would look at regulation of offshore student advisors. While there may be a few rogues operating – and we take that very seriously – it is a small part of what is a significant industry for New Zealand taxpayers.”

Booming industry

Given the current climate and the wide impact that is now at a tipping point calls for the rhetoric to stop. If holistically viewed, the $2.85 billion industry is probably costing more than it is returning. This is leaving aside the social impact and outcome conversation which has gained momentum in the public arena.

Isn’t the solution, to get rid of the carrot. Devise a scheme that allow student visas for certain qualifications that are in demand. Preferably these are to be high level qualifications. The need for a job offer should disappear as these are potential skilled migrants with New Zealand qualifications and settlement potential.

If the student residence visa category is designed as such, then the rogues will greatly reduce. That will go some way in addressing the cause as opposed to the symptom.

I wonder what our future generation with hindsight will have to say!

Kamil Lakshman is a Lawyer & Principal of Wellington based law firm Idesi Legal Limited. She can be contacted on (04) 4616018 or 021-1598803. Email: kamil.lakshman@idesilegal.co.nz; The opinions expressed in her article above are her own and not that of Idesi Legal Limited or the New Zealand Law Society, or its Wellington Branch, or its affiliated bodies and committees or Indian Newslink. Readers can send their comments (names can be withheld) to editor@indiannewslink.co.nz

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