The letter was signed by some 19 migrant Justice organisations and South Asian diaspora groups from across Canada.
Signatories of the letter called for a “definite stop” to the deportations and said the students should not have to bear the burden of proof because of fraud committed by consultants and recruiters.
“The burden of proof should not be on the students, the victims of the fraud,” the signatories said.
“Receiving deportation orders and the precarity of having to live with a constant threat of being separated from their families and uprooted from their communities and the associated struggle and turmoil is a painful process and is punishment in itself.”
Earlier this year, it was reported that students were were being investigated for misrepresentation after their recruitment agents used fake college acceptance letters to obtain study permits.
From May 28, students, their supporters and community members had set up a permanent protest in front of the CBSA headquarters in Mississauga – arguing they had no knowledge of the practice and had been scammed by education recruiters.
On June 14, Sean Fraser, Canada’s minister for IRCC said that international students who were genuine victims in a fraud involving fake post-secondary education letters of acceptance would not face deportation. Two individuals who allegedly posed as fake education agents and provided fraudulent documents have been arrested.
He also announced that a task force of officials has been created which will work with the Canada Border Services Agency to identify exactly who was a victim of fraud. Those deemed not to be genuine students will still face deportation.
However, there are concerns around how this task force will operate and that genuine students could slip through the net.
“The demands that the students are calling for are not only a stop to the deportations, but also real solutions,” Sarom Rho, an organiser at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, told The PIE News.
“The announcement that minister Fraser made is a step forward, but there’s still much that needs to be done.”
Rho noted that many of the students have already been deemed inadmissible or are currently undergoing admissibility hearings.
“Only those who are found to have been ‘genuine applicants’ are told that they will get temporary resident permits, which means their deportations will be halted, even beyond the eight weeks, and they’re not going to be subject to the inadmissibility charges.
“But that is only for those who are deemed to be ‘genuine applicants’, and only for those who have already been deemed inadmissible.”
Rho said that some students have their inadmissibility hearings underway and haven’t yet got a decision are being told they won’t be going through the task force.
“This is one of the big concerns that students have. What we are calling for is that any student who has been tricked by these unregulated recruiters should be able to self-identify and receive a temporary resident permit.”
Rho also explained that the numbers of students affected is still unclear and there may be some who have not yet come forward.
Rho said communication about how the task force will function is key.
“From what minister Fraser announced on June 14, it was those who have pending deportation orders, which means that likely they have already gone through the hearings and are deemed inadmissible,” she said.
“What the students are asking for is clear communication. About how this task force is going to operate, and who the onus is going to fall on to.
“The students are saying we need to reverse the onus, and in fact it should be the task force or the federal government having to prove that these students did wrong.”
In relation to the task force, Rho said her organisation is echoing the recommendations from the students, to completely waive and revoke inadmissibility, as well as urging the task force to implement a “fair process that seeks to support students and is fair and not vindictive, by allowing all those who are impacted to self identify and receive temporary resident permits”.
“We are also proposing the creation of an international students regulatory regime. Because this case of the students right now is extremely alarming but it is not a standalone case,” Rho said.
“There are going to be more of these situations because there is a proliferation of colleges and universities and Canada working with education recruiters but there is no regulation.”
An IRCC spokesperson told The PIE that if the facts of an individual case are clear that an international student came to Canada with a genuine intent to study, and without knowledge of the use of fraudulent documentation, the Minister has provided instructions for officers to issue a Temporary Resident Permit to that individual.
“This will ensure that these well-intentioned students and graduates can remain in Canada, and ensure that they are not subject to the five-year ban from re-entering Canada that normally follows in cases of misrepresentation,” the spokesperson said.