Indian students' last desperate plea as authorities move in

The group await their fate at a church in Ponsonby (Erin Speedy/Newshub.)
The group await their fate at a church in Ponsonby (Erin Speedy/Newshub.)

The group of Indian student seeking refuge in an Auckland church are pleading for mercy as arrests and imminent deportation of the group begins.

Students and their supporters are comforting each other as emotions run high.

The office for Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says the students are "encouraged to leave voluntarily, otherwise they will be deported by Immigration NZ."

Alistair McClymont, the lawyer representing the group, says government officials told him the students will be on a plane by Friday.

The students have been seeking refuge in the church since last Monday after immigration officials ordered the students to leave voluntarily or face deportation by force. The students say they were duped by immigration agents in India, who provided fraudulent visas for thousands of dollars.

Immigration officials know the students are at the Ponsonby Unitarian church and are waiting for confirmation from their manager in Wellington to see what action will be taken.

A man was taken from a Blockhouse Bay address and arrested by immigration officials just after 8am on Wednesday. He is now being held at Auckland Central Police Station.

By night, the students are being housed in the Indian community, as well as with members from the church. The arrested man had returned to his own home to see his family when he was caught by authorities.

(Erin Speedy/Newshub.)
(Erin Speedy/Newshub.)

Around eight students are holed up in the back of the church, waiting anxiously to see when immigration officials will turn up.

One of the students told Newshub they are all feeling worried.

"The government is merciless," he said.

"We've been trying for many days. Leaders from different groups and leaders from churches appealed to them for compassion, but they are still doing the same thing. I guess they don't understand the meaning of mercy."

Betsy Marshall, a member of the church, said she's come to know one of the families well.

"I'm just so saddened by the decision to deport them, because it's so unjust. They have become victims of a system that definitely needs to be remedied".

"I know the Minister understands that they are victims and has said that he wants to address the system, and I respect him for that. I have just hoped there would also be compassion", she said.

Mr McClymont says it looks like they will try to arrest everyone today.

He says the students are being made an example of, while everyone else is being let off the hook.

"This is all about sending a message back to India and that message is students will be punished and the agents can do what they like.

"They were genuine students. They had the qualifications and they had the money", he said.

Supporter Joe Carolyn, who is standing as an independent candidate in the Mt Albert by-election, said the group are appealing to the Government for mercy.

"Immigration have failed. The government have failed and the agents system and the education system here have failed. The only people being punished today are these nine students", he said.

As the students await their fate, a few supporters have started to roll through the church doors after calls were put out to rally at the church, but at this stage it's a waiting game.