Canada has ordered a freeze on the deportation of dozens of students from India who have been found to have entered the country on the basis of fraudulent acceptance letters to Canadian higher education institutions. But the students are not yet in the clear.
Dozens of students from India who went to study in Canada and have been living in fear of deportation for some time, received some relief this week when the Canadian authorities issued a stay order on their planned removal.
The students, whose exact number is not known, faced deportation for gaining admission to higher education institutions, allegedly on the basis of forged documents. The students claim they were not involved in submitting fake documents and that immigration and educational consultants in India are responsible for their situation.
Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) Sean Fraser told media outside the House of Commons chamber on Wednesday 14 June that the government was halting all pending removals of international students from India who may have entered the country on the basis of fraudulent acceptance letters.
The minister said: “We believe that there are significant aspects of fraud that certain bad actors have been using to take advantage of students. And, to the extent that people are complicit in fraudulent schemes, of course, they will bear the consequence of Canadian law on their behaviour.
“If the facts of an individual case are clear that an international student came to Canada with a genuine intent to study, and without knowledge of the use of fraudulent documentation, I have provided instructions for officers to issue a temporary resident permit to that individual,” said Fraser.
“This will ensure that these well-intentioned students and graduates can remain in Canada, and ensure that they are not subject to the five-year ban from re-entering Canada that normally follows in cases of misrepresentation.”
Fraser said the government’s focus was on “identifying those who are responsible for the fraudulent activity and not on penalising those who may have been affected by fraud”.
While Fraser did not say how many students and former students are involved, it appears that most of the students are from India’s northern state of Punjab.
A number of the students affected have informed police in India of the fraud.
Gurudev Singh, a farmer from Ferozepur in Punjab, said his son Amritpal Singh went to Canada in 2018 for undergraduate studies in London, Ontario for two years. He has since started working in Canada, but was now in danger of being sent back to India.
“We did not know this could happen. We have invested all our money and now there is talk of sending our son back from there,” he told University World News.
“We cannot tell what condition our son is in. He must be in great despair.”
On 28 March, police in the Punjab city of Jalandhar said Rahul Bhargava, an employee of a firm known as Education and Migration Services had been arrested. Police were still searching for his partners: Brijesh Mishra, whom they said had absconded; and another man called Gurnam Singh. The men face multiple charges under India’s criminal, penal and administrative codes.
Most of the students who went through the agency dealt mainly with Mishra. “We have got a case registered against Brijesh Mishra,” said Gurudev Singh.
Chaman Singh, based in the Punjab city of Amritsar, Punjab, is among the students who faced deportation. “While applying for an engineering course in Canada, I took help from an educational agent. I did not know that he would be giving me fake certificates,” Singh told University World News.
He arrived in Canada in 2018. “We came here to build our future but now we don’t know whether we are going to stay or be deported,” said Chaman Singh.