The lives of 700 Indian students were turned upside down when they received deportation notices from the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) in March 2023.
The unfortunate students were informed that their ‘admission offer letter’ to a prominent university in Toronto called Humber College was “fake.” Some of the students completed their diplomas and degrees, whereas some finished their 12th Standard exam a year earlier.
Most of the students were from Punjab, and many were hoping to get Permanent Residence (PR) in Canada but in vain. All of the students had one thing in common, they had applied for study visas through an agent named Brijesh Mishra from Jalandhar, Punjab.
Mishra ran a consulting firm named M/S Education and Migration Services in Jalandhar with one more person named Rahul Bhargava, now arrested for fraud. he was the one who started the company in 2014 under the Punjab Travel and Professional Regulation Act.
Brijesh Mishra, who belonged from Bihar was arrested in 2013 for sending students abroad on forged documents. He used to run a company called Easyway Immigration Consultancy Services along with Rahul Bhargava. The police raided his office and recovered passports and other documents at that time.
He is currently on the run and chased by law enforcement agencies, But the damage he caused to the students hangs in the balance. According to reports, the students paid him 16 lakh rupees and promised them admission to Humber College.
Apart from 16 lakhs, the students paid him extra cash for air tickets and security fees. The affected students filed their applications with the agent between 2018 and 2022. According to the police, Brijesh had also taken the franchise of another Delhi-based consultancy firm for facilitating student visas for Canada.
He would generate fake admission letters for the students and fake fee deposit receipts from Humber College Using these two, the accused would help his victims secure study visas from the Canadian Embassy.
Later, when the students arrived in Canada and learned that Humber College had made no such admission letters, he used to inform students that their admission had been cancelled. He would also ask the students to secure admission to other colleges and return the college fee after deducting a commission fee of 5 to 6 lakh rupees per student. He deliberately did this to avoid suspicion.
The scam was revealed by some students who had completed their degrees and diplomas, and applied for Permanent Residency. After scrutinising the initial offer letters of Humber College along with study visas, the Canadian students were able to unearth anomalies in the case of 700 students from Punjab.
On May 26, 2023, Sean Fraser, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said, “Our focus is on identifying the culprits and not penalise the victims. The victims of fraud will have an opportunity to demonstrate their situation and present evidence to support their case.”
On May 29, 2023, the affected students protested outside the Head office of the Canada Border Security Agency’s head office in Mississauga because the Canadian government had not withdrawn their deportation notices. Similar protests were organised in Ontario.
An Indian Student named Balbir Singh said-“we are the victims and not the culprits. A protest has been going on in Toronto for the last ten days. Students are spending 24 hours there without shelter seeking justice.”
Another student named Lovepreet Singh is said to be deported on June 13, 2023. Some students are fighting for justice, while others are awaiting their fate.
“Students pay 40000 dollars in fees and have been paying taxes for the last five years, and now, they are paying lawyers thousands of dollars. Can the Canadian government give the students half a decade and money back?” another student said.
On June 8, 2023, Sean Fraser tweeted, “We are actively pursuing a solution for international students who are facing uncertainty due to having been admitted to Canada with fraudulent college admission letters. Those who have taken advantage of these people hoping to pursue their education and careers will face the consequences for their actions.”
He also added that “innocent victims will be given the opportunity to have their cases considered fairly. Due to the complexities of the situation, we remain committed to working with the CBSA to arrive at an outcome.”
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led Punjab government is not shying away from appearing all concerned, even woving to provide free and legal aid to the 700 students facing deportation from Canada.
Kuldeep Dhaliwal, the Punjab NRI Affairs Minister, announced that the affected students would be assisted by lawyers who are experts in immigration laws. He also wrote to the Punjabi-origin Canadian MPs to solve the students’ problems.
While it is evident that the Ministry of External Affairs is going to take up the matter to a diplomatic level, Dhaliwal created a spectacle on Twitter, writing to Jaishankar and seeking immediate intervention.
“I shall be highly grateful if you look into the matter personally and take up this matter with concerned agencies, including the High Commission of India in Canada and the government of Canada, so that these students can be saved from being deported.”
The Akali Dal MP, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, also wrote to the External Affairs Minister Jaishankar requesting him to intervene. She said that while 700 students had faced action, it has come to light as 200 more students have received deportation orders from the CBSA after the Scrutiny of their papers.
Given that the Modi government has helped rescue Indians under extremely difficult conditions as evident in Operation Ganga, Operation Shakti and Operation Kaveri, it is obviously trying to resolve the matters through effective diplomatic channels. However, despite the clout, the AAP is exploiting the issue affecting Indian students in Canada.