Auckland church providing sanctuary for Indian students
Nine Indian students remain in sanctuary in an Auckland church on Tuesday morning, after defying an immigration order to leave the New Zealand.
They say they'll remain there as long as it takes for the Government to let them stay in the country.
The Auckland Unitarian Church is giving sanctuary to the students who say they were duped by dodgy immigration agents for thousands of dollars.
"These students are not being treated as human beings - their rights are being trampled, they're being humiliated," Nelson Clay, Minister for the Unitarian Church, told Newshub.
People who wish to visit the students are welcome to visit the church, he said.
"It can get pretty boring just sitting around the church all day looking for things that they can do to keep themselves busy. If people want to come by and meet them and learn more about the situation, they are welcome to drop by."
The Unitarians are backed by Catholics, Anglicans, the unions and the Labour and Green parties.
Indian student Sujadh Mirza says he and his fellow students are grateful for the church’s support.
"They have given us our new home to stay over here and they are providing everything, and I'm so much thankful for them."
The students say they're appealing to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse to reverse the deportation order on moral grounds.
However the Minister's office wouldn't say whether they would stand in officials' way if they tried to forcibly evict the students from the church.
Immigration officials have ordered the students to leave voluntarily or face deportation by force, but the students blame unscrupulous immigration agents in India, irresponsible colleges and lax immigration officials in New Zealand.
Indian student Manoj, who doesn't want his surname known over fears his family will be affected back home, says it's near impossible to spot a dodgy immigration in India.
“In a small street like Queen Street back in India there are more than 100 to 400 agents there. How can we know he was doing dodgy things?"
And supporters like Joe Carolan say it's a moral issue.
"It's over to you Minister Woodhouse, you have the power to change this," he says.
Mr Woodhouse told Newshub last week that while he did have sympathy for the students, he wouldn't intervene.