700 international students facing deportation will get ‘fair outcome’: minister

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Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced visa-free travel for visitors from 13 different countries across Asia, Africa, Central and South America during a visit to Winnipeg’s international airport on Tuesday. Effective immediately, applicants who have carried a Canadian visa in the last ten years can now apply for the electronic travel authorization (eTA) program for just $7.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is promising a “fair outcome” for over 700 international students from India facing deportation after falling victim to a fake college enrolment scam.

Fraser did not, however, clarify whether the deportation orders against the students would be put on hold while the cases are resolved.

“We are actively pursuing a solution for intl students who are facing uncertainty due to having been admitted to Canada with fraudulent college admission letters,” Fraser said in his tweet on Wednesday.

He added those who have “taken advantage” of international students would face consequences.

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According to a press release issued by advocates on behalf of the students, those now facing deportation orders came to Canada in 2017 and 2018 on student permits.

The press release says the students were issued “fake college admission letters drafted by their immigration consultants, namely a Jalandhar-based consultant named Brijesh Mishra.”

“After landing in Canada, the consultants told students that they could not enroll in that particular college for various reasons, such as deferral or unavailability of seats. The students were told to change colleges, which they did in order to begin their studies,” the press release states.

“Over the last five to six years, most of the students have completed their studies, entered the workforce, started families and have applied for permanent residency (PR). They were unaware of the fake offer letters until they began applying for PR.”

Fraser said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will be working closely with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to resolve the issue. Global News has reached out to Fraser’s office for more clarity on whether the deportation orders are still active.

The office of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, to whom the CBSA answers, said it had no further comments at this time.

Minister Fraser’s statement is “on behalf of the government on this issue,” a spokesperson from Mendicino’s office said.

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A spokesperson for IRCC said their focus was on identifying culprits, rather than penalizing victims of fraud.

“Victims of fraud will always have an opportunity to demonstrate their situation and present evidence to support their case. Generally speaking, an individual identified in connection with an investigation after they have already been admitted to Canada would benefit from a procedural fairness process. Individuals involved would be offered an opportunity to explain what transpired, and decision-makers would take that information into account,” the spokesperson told Global News.

A group of students have been protesting close to Toronto Pearson Airport since May 28. Aside from the ongoing protest, they also protested outside the CBSA office on May 30. On Thursday, they plan to hold a demonstration outside Mendicino’s constituency office in Toronto.

Mishra, the immigration consultant cited in the press release, allegedly charged these students thousands of dollars and is said to be behind the fake admission letters. Mishra’s company is now closed and he has reportedly not been seen for several months.

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India’s minister for external affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said Canada should not punish students who set out to study in good faith.

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“If there were people who misled them, the culpable parties should be acted against. It is unfair to punish a student who undertook their education in good faith,” Jaishankar told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday.

The government of Punjab, the state to which most of the students in question belong, called on the Canadian government to consider “humanitarian and compassionate grounds” while resolving the issue.

Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, Punjab’s minister of Non-Residential Indian (NRI) affairs wrote a letter to Fraser on Thursday, assuring him that Punjab will deal with the culprits with “the full force of the law.”

“They (students) come from various economic and social backgrounds. Some of the families have mortgaged the meagre agricultural land they had to pay the tuition fee of their wards,” Dhaliwal wrote in his letter to Fraser.

“The students have invested 5-6 defining years of their lives in Canada. If they are deported to India, they will face financial ruin, social ridicule, mental health issues and tremendous other hardships.”

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