Two Indians ‘missing’ in New Zealand on flight home

July 20th, 2008 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, July 20 (IANS) Two of the 40 Indian men, who disappeared in New Zealand en route to attend the Catholic Church’s just concluded week-long World Youth Day (WYD) festivities here, were Sunday night on a flight back home to India. The two men, aged 18 and 20, Saturday evening returned to the home of the Catholic family that had been billeting them in Auckland. The family then contacted the Immigration Service.

The Department of Labour’s immigration officials were satisfied that the two were genuine Catholics and had not paid money to anyone to facilitate their travel to New Zealand.

The immigration official who interviewed them said they were “caught up in the excitement of it all” when they decided to stay on in New Zealand.

“They agreed they should return to India. Immigration officials looked after them overnight, took them to a church to watch the televised coverage of the Pope’s mass and then took them to the Auckland International airport,” a Department of Labour spokesperson said.

Since the pair had agreed to leave, their departure was termed voluntary, that is, they have not been “removed or deported” and, as such, will not have anything recorded against them that would preclude future entry into New Zealand, the spokesperson added.

The number of missing Indians increased from 39 to 40 last Friday with the Department of Labour discovering that an Indian man granted visa as part of the group of 220 heading for the WYD celebrations in Sydney, but travelling alone, had not left New Zealand as scheduled.

The Department of Labour’s Immigration Service has spoken to 20 others at various locations in New Zealand’s upper North Island over the weekend, asking them about the circumstances of their visit to New Zealand and reminding them of the conditions of their visitor visas.

The missing 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 Service has appealed to them to come forward and meet immigration authorities to resolve the situation.

All of the people interviewed by the Immigration Service have made allegations of fraud involving people in India. The department was Sunday not commenting on the detail of the allegations.

Earlier, three other men, aged between 32 and 34, told Joy Reid of Radio New Zealand soon after meeting immigration officials along with two representatives of the Indian community in Auckland Thursday afternoon, “We are victims ourselves and we are not trying to cheat the system.”

Hailing from Bulath village in Jalandhar district, the men told Radio New Zealand that they are genuine Catholics and had come with a group of 12 others from their village, eight of whom have gone to Australia.

The three men, a carpenter, an electrician and a shop assistant, told Radio New Zealand that they had borrowed money from money-lenders in order to pay the NZ$17,000 fee to the agent, whom they met in their village.

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