Canada has offered a temporary reprieve for a group of Indian students facing removal from the country over alleged fake college admission letters.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says “genuine students who are the victims of fraud” will be allowed to stay in Canada after investigations.
The students say they were unaware of the forgeries and were duped by an immigration agency in India.
They have been holding protests to bring attention to their situation.
A number of international students have come forward in recent months in Canada to say they received removal orders after one of the documents – their college admission letter – was found to be fraudulent.
Any pending removals will now be halted while the federal government sets up a task force to conduct case-by-case analysis of all students facing a removal order, Mr Fraser said at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.
“Our goal here is to offer a fast, fair and final resolution for people who have been impacted,” he said. “We understand the toll that this process has taken on your mental health and the challenges that you’re dealing with and we want to provide a solution.”
The minister said he expects the process will take a few months.
“It’s good news for us but until we get everything on the paper we are still going to wait for that moment,” student Chamandeep Singh, who came to Canada in 2019, told the BBC.
Mr Fraser said some students have already been removed from Canada and “they will have access to the same remedies as those who are here”.
There are no clear figures on how many students in Canada may have been affected, but the immigration minister said there are “a few dozen people who have been subject to removal orders”. He added there may be more cases that will come to light and the numbers could “potentially be in a few hundred”.
At least some of the students the BBC spoke to had their files flagged by immigration officials when they tried to apply for permanent residency in Canada, which would allow them to live and work in the country after they complete their studies.
The students say they were the victims of fraud themselves, duped by an immigration consultation agency run in Jalandhar, a city in the Punjab region of India.
In March, Canadian broadcaster CBC reported that Indian authorities had arrested one of the men behind the agency.
Some students had been in the country for years and were working towards earning their degree.
Based all over Canada, including British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, they found each other on social media and have been organising protests in the Toronto-area.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has previously confirmed to the BBC that there are “a number of cases of misrepresentation, including those related to study permits” but offered no further comment due to an ongoing investigation.
Mr Fraser said the federal government will also be working over the longer term to establish a stronger system to better detect fraud in cases like these.
India sends the highest number of applicants on the foreign students visa programme and, like all foreign students, they pay nearly four to five times compared to Canadians.
Source : BBC