There have been many times I’ve cringed with shame as a result of this government’s heartless policies: how they blame the poor for being poor; deny there’s a homelessness problem or a housing crisis; condone the use of dodgy carbon credits to assert our climate emissions are ok – the list goes on. My shame today stems from their callous treatment of international students.
Our government has proudly claimed that education for international students is worth about $3 billion per year and creates around 20,000 jobs. Steven Joyce wants to increase that to $5 billion over the next few years.
This push treats international students as a commodity and overlooks the fact that they can be taken advantage of by dodgy education and immigration advisers in their own country of origin. Once here, many can find it a real struggle financially. International students also pay enormous fees and have limited access to services. Although many students are able to work 20 hours a week, there is substantial evidence that they are exploited by unscrupulous employers. And then of course, they may also find their private training establishment is dodgy as well – as evidence by 400 international students at a school in Auckland having to be re-tested and potentially facing deportation.
Other international students in Auckland are also facing deportation following the exposure that their immigration papers are fraudulent. This is the result of dodgy education agents in their country of the origin, which Immigration NZ has a responsibility to verify. It’s beyond cruel to throw students out mere months before they complete education that has cost them and their families tens of thousands of dollars.
I’ve written to Ministers Woodhouse and Joyce asking them to overturn this decision – as they did last year, when Filipino dairy workers were found to have false immigration papers resulting from the same types of circumstances.
We can and should do better by international students. We need better oversight of private training establishments and the qualifications they offer, better scrutiny of immigration agents where NZ education organisations are recruiting and much better pastoral care for those that do come here. Treating international students as a cash-cow with little thought for their well-being goes completely against the principal of manākitanga and is nothing less than shameful education trafficking.