The Canadian government is investigating fraudulent acceptance letters used to gain entry to the country’s institutions, as hundreds of Indian students wait to hear whether they will be deported.
Writing on Twitter, immigration minister Sean Fraser said the government is “actively investigating” reports of fraudulent acceptance letters and would focus on “identifying culprits, not penalizing victims.”
“Victims of fraud will have an opportunity to demonstrate their situation & present evidence to support their case,” he wrote.
“We recognize the immense contributions international students bring to our country & remain committed to supporting victims of fraud as we evaluate each case.
“We’re also working closely with institutions to verify acceptance letters are valid at the time of application.”
— ਰਮਨ ਸਿੱਧੂ (@786ramansidhu) May 31, 2023
It comes as Canada’s courts suspend the deportation of an Indian woman whose college admission letter was found to be fake.
Karamjeet Kaur, 25, is one of reportedly hundreds of Indian students under investigation after being found to have used a fake acceptance letter in her immigration application. The students say they were unaware the letters were fraudulent and assert they are victims of a scam.
Kaur faced removal from Canada on May 29 after the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that she had entered the country illegally, but this order has now been stayed pending a judicial review.
According to media reports, Kaur has been threatened by the immigration agent who has been criminally charged. Her lawyer said her brother in Punjab had been beaten and the agent had threatened to throw acid at Kaur or kill her.
Another student, Lovepreet Singh, has been ordered to leave Canada by June 13.
Students and community members have been staging a permanent occupation outside the Canada Border Services Agency in Mississauga since Sunday, and some have launched a petition calling for an end to the deportations.
BREAKING: International students facing deportation to India begin 24-hour permanent protest in front of CBSA head office in Mississauga
The students have been protesting at 6900 Airport Road day and night since Monday. Join them✊
— Naujawan Support Network (@NSNPeel) May 30, 2023
“For months, the students who are facing deportation after being tricked by education recruiters have been demanding an end to their deportations, a moratorium on the revocation of their work permits, as well as demanding permanent residence status so that they have the power to protect themselves and get justice,” said Sarom Rho, organiser at Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.
Despite Fraser’s promise to let students fight their cases, Rho said this might not be enough.
“Many of the students have already presented evidence, have had their hearings, but the burden of proof is so high and the existing rules are designed in a way that it already punishes migrants,” she said.
“Many of them have already had the opportunity to present their proof but are now deemed inadmissible for permanent residency.”
Last October, prime minister Justin Trudeau announced his intent to explore a regularisation program which would give permanent residency to undocumented people.
“There is an opportunity for the immigration minister and for this government to create an inclusive regularisation program that is uncapped and includes all undocumented people and ensures permanent residence status to all by waiving inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation, which would include the students who are in this situation,” Rho said.
6900 Airport Road, entrance 93
Today is the 5th day they’ve been bravely holding down a permanent protest, 24/7, outside CBSA offices in Mississauga pic.twitter.com/UJQHrxx8ix
— Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (@MWACCanada) June 2, 2023
A lawyer for Canada Border Services Agency told a hearing last week that applicants are “responsible for the content of an application for which they sign”. Fraser’s comments came the day after the hearing.
Angrez Angurana, RCIC immigration consultant and CEO of Visa Plus, said Fraser’s promise to investigate fake acceptance letters was “encouraging” but it is “doubtful whether this measure alone will effectively prevent fraudulent activities or provide a permanent solution”.
“Finding and punishing these individuals operating from outside Canada will remain a big challenge”
“Finding and punishing these individuals operating from outside Canada will remain a big challenge, particularly due to jurisdictional complexities in various countries and regions,” he said.
“These fraudulent agents often devise new tactics, such as using students’ identities or handling applications on their behalf, making it extremely difficult to trace them and hold them accountable for their illegal activities.”
Angurana recommended the creation of a dedicated portal that would be accessible to institutions and immigration officers, which could be used to authenticate letters.
“Raising awareness can also play a key role,” he added. “Canada’s government needs to initiate a focused awareness campaign to educate international students about the risks associated with unscrupulous individuals.”
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