3 missing Indians in New Zealand to expose agent (Lead)

July 17th, 2008 - 10:18 am ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, July 17 (IANS) Three of the 39 Indians, who disappeared in New Zealand en route to attend the Catholic Church’s week-long World Youth Day (WYD) festivities in Sydney, are believed to be in Tauranga and will tell immigration officers about the travel agent who duped them. New Zealand Sikh Society spokesman Daljit Singh, who has been liaising with some of the missing Indians, most of who are from Punjab, told Radio New Zealand that the trio would meet with immigration officials later Thursday to reveal all about the travel agent who took Rs.500,000 (US$12,000) each from the 39 Indians, wrongly promising them permanent residency visas.

The 39, masqueraded as Catholics while some are Muslims and Hindus, were part of a group of 220 Indians who were billeted with Catholic families in Auckland on their way to Pope Benedict XVI led WYD celebrations in Sydney.

New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils’ president Pancha Narayanan told Radio New Zealand that Bollywood movies are portraying New Zealand as an easy destination to migrate. However, the Department of Labour, which is incharge of immigration, has rejected such claims that New Zealand is a soft target for immigration scams.

Immigration Service head Andrew Annakin told the radio that New Zealand has advanced levels of security and is vigilant about trafficking.

Meanwhile, an embarrassed chairman of the World Youth Day committee in Auckland, Maurice Boland, has also appealed to the missing Indians to immediately contact immigration authorities. He said there was “a lot of hurt” among the families who had agreed to host them.

Some of those who are missing absconded from Auckland International Airport on arrival in New Zealand in early July, while others absconded from their billets, all but one leaving their luggage there, according to the Department of Labour.

Representatives of the Catholic Church, which sponsored their transit through New Zealand, have handed the passports of 38 Indians to immigration officials. One person is said to be in possession of his own passport.

The absconding Indians, aged 17 to 35 and mainly from Jalandhar in Punjab, have valid visitor visa to remain legally in New Zealand until Aug 5 or 6 and the immigration head has appealed to them to come forward and meet the immigration authorities to resolve the situation.

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