A Canadian parliamentary committee has voted unanimously to urge the border services agency to stop the deportation of nearly 700 Indian students who were duped by unscrupulous education consultants in India to enter the country with "fraudulent college admission letters."
The Indian students, mostly from Punjab, face deportation from Canada after the authorities here found their ’admission offer letters’ to educational institutions fake.
The matter came to light in March when these students applied for permanent residency in Canada.
In a symbolic move, the all-party immigration committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to call on the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to waive the inadmissibility of the affected students, The Toronto Star newspaper reported.
The committee also asked the CBSA to provide the students, as many as 700 from India, with an alternative pathway to permanent residence on humanitarian grounds or through a ”regularisation” programme, the report said.
Calling the students victims of fraud, Jenny Kwan, a lawmaker who tabled the motion said, "So as a first step, this is absolutely essential and necessary. The students are victims of fraud and should not be penalised.”
”These students, I've met with many of them, now are just in such a terrible state. They've lost money, and they are stuck in a terrible situation. And some of them have deportation orders. Others have pending meetings with CBSA,” the newspaper quoted Kwan as saying.
”We need to have empathy for those students, and we should not exploit the situation and play politics on this issue of those innocent students,” Liberal MP Shafqat Ali said.
The MP for Brampton Centre, where many affected students now reside, added that the students have "gone through and are going through a lot".
Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser said, "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."
"Those who have taken advantage of people genuinely hoping to study here will face consequences for their actions," he said in a separate tweet, adding that innocent victims would be given every opportunity to have their cases considered fairly.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India has taken up the issue with Canadian authorities.
"If there were people who misled them (the students), the culpable parties should be acted upon. It is unfair to punish a student who undertook education in good faith," he said in New Delhi.
Jaishankar said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also made a statement in the House of Commons on the issue.
"We are in touch with Canada on the issue," he said.
Trudeau, responding to a question by Indian-origin MP Jagmeet Singh on the fate of the Indian students, said, "We are deeply aware of cases of international students facing removal orders over fraudulent college acceptance letters."
"To be clear, our focus is on identifying the culprits, not penalising the victims. Victims of fraud will have an opportunity to demonstrate their situations and present evidence to support their cases," he said.
"We recognise the immense contributions international students bring to our country and we remain committed to supporting victims of fraud as we evaluate each case," the Canadian prime minister said on Wednesday.
The parliamentary committee also passed a motion to issue a news release to condemn the actions of the fraudulent ”ghost consultants” and also voted to undertake a study over two meetings into the targeted exploitation scheme faced by the Punjabi international students.
The committee has also decided to ask Fraser, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and their staff to appear before the committee to provide a briefing on the situation, the report said.