Facing potential deportation from Canada as their study permits were based on allegedly fake documentation prepared by an agent in India, a group of affected students have said they were victims of fraud.
While the exact number of students impacted is uncertain, at least 70 have joined together in an online forum to collectively address their problem, as they face an exclusion order from the Canada Border Services Agency or CBSA which could result in their deportation from the country as well as a ban for five years from entering it again.
The students arrived in Canada between 2017 and 2019, and in rare instances, in 2020. They started receiving notices from the CBSA in 2021 and last year, for a hearing as the agency concluded the letter of offer of admission to a Canadian higher education institution, which formed the basis of their study permits, was “fake.”
The majority of the affected students were represented by the agent Brijesh Mishra of the Jalandhar-based counselling firm EMSA Education and Migration Services Australia.
One of the students, 27-year-old Inder Singh, who is based in Brampton and originally from Amritsar, told the Hindustan Times he had been charged nearly ₹14 lakh for the process of getting the visa for studying in Canada.
Three of the affected students also met officials at the Indian Consulate in Toronto as New Delhi has communicated its concern over their plight. A senior official with India’s High Commission in Ottawa said they were pursuing the matter with Canadian authorities.
The students said they were being victimized for no fault of theirs. In an open letter under the banner of Victim Students, they said, “We are desperate for justice; we are victims of fraud; we have no criminal record; and we are legitimate students who completed their programs at the university or college level but facing a removal order.”
“No one can understand our anguish when we learned for the first time through CBSA that the offer was fake and we have been dying and struggling ever since,” it added.
The students held a small protest in Brampton, in the Greater Toronto Area or GTA, in February, but their issue came to the fore once it was reported by the outlet India Narrative.
Singh estimated there were about 100 former international students who were facing possible deportation, though he said the number was difficult to estimate and could even pass a thousand.
The students said their documents were checked by CBSA when they first arrived in Canada and they were allowed entry into the country. But they first sensed something was amiss then Mishra allegedly informed them that the colleges they received offers from were overbooked or on strike and they had to seek admission in alternate institutions.
“Some of us completed our programs in private or public colleges and successfully received study permit extensions or post-graduate work permits,” the letter said.
In response to queries from the Hindustan Times, a CBSA spokesperson said they could not address individual issues due to privacy laws, and added, “The mandate of enforcement officers is to support CBSA operations and law enforcement organizations in Canada and abroad, to collect, analyze, collate and disseminate information on activities suspected of contravening Canadian laws, particularly when they pose threats to the health and safety of Canadians and the Canadian economy.”
“Foreign nationals can be inadmissible for security, health or financial reasons. The Agency has a legal obligation to remove all foreign nationals and permanent residents who are inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and who have a removal order in force.”
Many of the students have hired lawyers to face hearings or contest possible deportation.
India’s High Commission had in December flagged the issue of fraud by agents and how students from the country coming to Canada could be adversely impacted and shared a link to institutions recognised by the Canadian Government.
But for the batch of students facing deportation, there is already the reality of the alleged fraud taking its toll on their future in Canada. Some have “suicidal thoughts” as they undergo this “hellish feeling”, the statement said. They now also face hefty legal fees to contest the deportation proceedings.
“We are all genuine students, victims of fraud, not accused. No one can understand our anguish when we learned for the first time through CBSA that the offer was fake and we have been dying and struggling ever since,” it said.