Melbourne: With their visas set to expire by tomorrow, the 34 “missing” Indians, who arrived in New Zealand as “pilgrims” but later claimed they were victims of an immigration scam, faced an uncertain future even as 10 of them applied for an extension of their travel permits.
Forty pilgrims, part of a wider group of over 200 people, disappeared last month while on stopovers in New Zealand before flying to Sydney to take part in the Pope’s World Youth Day rally.
Since then four of the Indians have returned home, and now a fifth has surfaced, the New Zealand Press Association reported today.
“He contacted us and said he wanted to go home, so arrangements are being made for that,” a Department of Labour spokesman said adding “we’ll keep looking for the others, we’ve got a fair idea where 20 of them are.”
So far 10 have applied to remain in New Zealand and their applications were being considered. Three of them were seeking extensions to their visitor’s permit, and seven had applied for student permits.
Earlier this week Immigration officials warned the Indians that if they had to be removed from New Zealand they would be banned from any form of re-entry for five years.
Members of the group claimed they paid upto $13,000 to an agent in India who organized their travel visas and told them they could stay in New Zealand “forever”.
The spokesman said that officials were continuing to gather information about the alleged fraud and would eventually decide whether to pass it on to Indian authorities.
The one-month entry visas for 16 of the Indians will expire at midnight and for 18 others the deadline is for tomorrow night.