The Indian nationals who went missing from Auckland in July en route to the Catholic Church's World Youth Day festivities in Sydney will be deemed illegal after their visitor visas expire this week.
Forty Indian nationals went missing in early July, four of whom have since returned to India. Of the remaining, the visitor visas of 17 expire on Wednesday and that of 18 on Thursday. One person is on a longer permit visa.
"Five of these people have applied for student visas and three for visitor visas, and we are considering those applications," a spokesperson for the Department of Labour told IANS.
The Department's Immigration Service, which has launched an investigation into their disappearance, told IANS that "it knows the location of about 20 of the other 36 Indian nationals and is working with the Indian community, its own networks and the Indian High Commission to locate the remaining 16".
It is believed that 39 of the 220 Indians, who were given one month visitor visas for New Zealand in early July, disappeared after discovering that their Indian migration agent had wrongly promised them permanent residency visas after securing thousands of dollars (NZ$17,000) from them.
The absconding Indian nationals cannot remain legally in New Zealand once their valid visas expire. "However, they have the right to make a case to the Removal Review Authority to remain here, but if they are subsequently removed from New Zealand they will be banned for five years from any form of re-entry to the country," the Department's spokesperson told IANS.
The incident has earned negative publicity for Indian migrants in New Zealand who have gone all out to assist the Department to locate the absconding Indians - aged 17 to 35 and hailing mainly from Jalandhar in Punjab.
Earlier, some of the people interviewed by the Immigration Service had made allegations of fraud involving people in India. Three men from Bulath village in Jalandhar district, aged between 32 and 34, had said: "We are victims ourselves and we are not trying to cheat the system."
The three men, a carpenter, an electrician and a shop assistant, said 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.
During 2007-2008, a total of 3,293 Indian nationals were granted permanent residence visas, 11,405 came on work visas and 28,982 arrived on visitor visas.
According to New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils, many people are using New Zealand as a back door entry to Australia. It said one-fifth of the 31,900 who crossed the Tasman Sea permanently in the past 12 months were not born in New Zealand, most were originally from South Africa, followed by people from India and Britain.
Federation president Pancha Narayanan, an Indian Malaysian who emigrated to New Zealand 22 years ago and has worked in both countries, told Radio New Zealand recently that many people who fail to get into Australia use New Zealand as a back door entry, and they move because of economic factors.
According to the Longitudinal Immigration Survey, 92.5 per cent of migrants to New Zealand reported that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with life in New Zealand. Most migrants (83.5 per cent) planned to live in New Zealand full time or for five years or more at the time of residence approval.