NZ's international students going hungry, 'sleeping in cars'

ANZ's Funds Transfer Scheme only allows Indian and Sri Lankan students to withdraw $1250 a month for living costs to make sure they don't run out of money.
ANZ's Funds Transfer Scheme only allows Indian and Sri Lankan students to withdraw $1250 a month for living costs to make sure they don't run out of money. Photo credit: Getty

Indian students in New Zealand threatened self-harm, were sleeping in cars and going hungry because they didn't have enough money, official Immigration documents show.

The documents, released to Labour under the Official Information Act, show concerns over an "agent-school-high risk NZ employer exploitation/facilitation triangle" which has a stranglehold on the industry.

It's being used as evidence to back up the party's immigration policy launched this week which would see a cut of migrant numbers of up to 30,000 each year.

Among those, between 6000 to 10,000 student visas will be targeted - specifically those of "low value" which also provide the ability to work.

Labour wants to stop the "backdoor immigration" to New Zealand of students who are given an automatic right to a one-year work visa if they complete a qualification involving at least 60 weeks of study.

The June 2016 email, from risk manager Justin Alves at Immigration NZ's Mumbai office, says the current model "drives a low-quality / high volume rather than high quality based approach across most of the market".

"NZ will never have high quality (in any quantity) with this model in place."

It says the "exploitation/facilitation triangle" results in "most (or almost all?) Indian students intend to settle in NZ".

And when those students do settle in New Zealand, a further Immigration email shows how desperate some things can become.

Student visas require $15,000 a year for living costs in addition to study fees; that money is administered by ANZ's Funds Transfer Scheme which only allows Indian and Sri Lankan students to withdraw $1250 a month for living costs to make sure they don't run out of money.

In an email from August 2 last year Mumbai operations manager Dan Smidt said ANZ was undertaking a review of the system.

"[ANZ] have indicated they regularly receive calls from Indian students threatening self-harm, stating they are sleeping in cars, are hungry and have no access to food, and therefore need funds released urgently."

The email said there was no process to deal with those urgent requests.

Mr Smidt said it was of "significant importance" education providers were told students were making those desperate calls "and take steps to fulfil their pastoral care obligations".

Labour's immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway says most international students who have post-study plans, intend to stay and work in New Zealand.

He says the 2016 International Student Barometer showed that of the 72 percent of international students who have a plan for when their course ends, 41 percent plan to stay in New Zealand - up from 35 percent in 2014.

"Our international education sector should be about delivering quality education and exporting that to the world. Instead, part of the sector has become little more than a vehicle for people to gain a backdoor to live in New Zealand."

Prime Minister Bill English says Labour's plan would stall the economy and is based on a misunderstanding of the industry.

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz