New Zealands Labour Department speaks to missing Indian pilgrims

July 21st, 2008 - 12:48 pm ICT by ANI  

Wellington, July 21 (ANI): The Labour Departments immigration service has spoken to half of the Indian pilgrims who went missing in New Zealand while en route to World Youth Day in Sydney.

It was originally believed 39 Indian pilgrims had gone missing, but the number increased to 40 on Friday when it was discovered that a man travelling alone had not left New Zealand when scheduled.

The 40 were from a group of 220 pilgrims visiting New Zealand before attending World Youth Day.

A Department of Labour spokesman said it had spoken to 20 of the pilgrims asking about the circumstances of their visit and reminding them of the conditions of their visitor permits.

Two men will leave Auckland Airport tonight and make their way back to India.

The men, aged 18 and 20, were leaving voluntarily rather than being deported, which meant they would be able to travel to New Zealand in future.

The men returned to the Auckland Catholic family they were staying with on Saturday and the family contacted the Immigration Service, who visited the house.

Immigration officials were “satisfied that the pair are genuine Catholics and had not paid money to anyone to facilitate their travel to New Zealand”, reported.

The group were believed to have paid 17,000 dollars each to an agent in India who organised their travel visas and told them they could stay in New Zealand forever.

Catholic church members billeted many of the 220 Indians who stopped off in New Zealand.

The spokesman said all 20 pilgrims spoken to have made allegations of fraud involving people in India.

However, he would not comment on the allegations as it could prejudice inquiries.

The Indian community, Indian High Commission and Catholic Church have been working with immigration officials to locate the remaining missing pilgrims. (ANI)

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