The red maple leaf has been increasingly taking over newspaper advertisements and hoardings on the road, promising the youth of India who are unable to find employment or the standard of living they desire, a chance at better prospects. About 700 of these aspirants were recently in the news as the Canadian Border and Services Agency (CBSA) reported them as having falsified their migration process.
Canada Ups Scrutiny
Surprisingly this move has come only when these students had applied for permanent residency (PR) and not at the time of their admission or arrival a few years back. The Canadian authorities have not offered the reason why they could not identify the fraudulent practices in student recruitment at the time of arrival in Canada.
A consultancy agency in Jalandhar, Punjab, is reported to have deceived these students of lakhs of rupees promising them a secure future in Canada. A large-scale migration of students to Canada was witnessed following the Canadian Prime Minister allowing about 50,000 foreign students to stay for 18 months after completing their graduation to seek employment as part of the reopening of Canada’s economy following COVID-19.
The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) department has reported India as the top source country in 2022, with almost 226,450 Indian students entering Canada. India’s Ministry of Education has reported that almost 750,365 students left for studies abroad in the year 2022.
There is no doubt that the popularity of going abroad to pursue higher education and making it a step towards obtaining PR in the destination country is one of the appealing choices for the youth of our country.
PR Will Get Tougher
Countries of the global north like the United States, United Kingdom and Canada top the list of destination countries. But the receptiveness of these countries towards immigration has seen a fall over the past decade.
This was evident in the United States during Donald Trump’s election campaign and his presidency. The anti-immigrant sentiments in various countries of the European Union are showcased by parties with anti-migrant agendas gaining power. These restrictions on migration also trickle down to the intake of foreign students.
New UK prime minister Rishi Sunak in a recent speech has scrutinised the admissions of foreign students enrolling in “low quality” degrees. This move comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that for the first time, Indian students have overtaken Chinese student migrants in the United Kingdom.
Even in Canada, the immigration racket case clearly indicates that the scrutiny of PR is much more intensive compared to during student intake. The challenges awaiting aspiring student migrants hoping to achieve some form of permanency abroad are most likely to multiply in the near future.
The recent case of fraud wherein students from Punjab were cheated by a consulting agent who was charging lakhs of money only to result in fake college offer letters has led to the deportation of 700 students. This case is not an exception, frauds and deceit by consulting and recruitment agencies have been frequently reported and a larger share of complaints do not get reported due to the fear of deportation by the migrant.
Such agencies exploit the vulnerability and lack of knowledge of an individual regarding the complex process of migration. Falsified documents and irregularity in visa applications are some of the fraudulent methods used by agents. They are also reported to take large sums of money for services like accommodation, and part-time work that will be provided upon reaching the destination.
Even when these promises are not delivered, students are sometimes threatened against complaining against the agency, instilling in them the fear of deportation. Harsh penalties and severe actions against such exploitative activities must be taken up to counter the dangers posed by such agencies.
Massive Data Gaps
Moreover, with the increasing constraints on student migration by many foreign countries like the US and the United Kingdom, it is imperative for a country like India with a high number of student migrants to invest more towards ensuring the safe and secure migration of its youth.
Efforts have to be made towards improving the institutional capacities aiding students in migration so that they don’t fall prey to deceits and frauds. Regular checks on the registration and certification of new agencies must be taken up more seriously.
We are currently engaged in multiple studies and projects to uncover the lives of student migrants globally. These studies aim at understanding both the decision-making process prior to migrating and life after migration, with an emphasis on the role played by the recruitment and consulting agency in their migration journey.
Despite India accounting for a large share of student migrants, there is a paucity of reliable databases recording the various nuances of a student’s decision to migrate. A deeper understanding of the country’s socio-economic standing can be derived from how the youth of the country perceive their own nation. Additionally, the challenges Indian students abroad face can be understood if we have Information regarding their life in the destination country.
S Irudaya Rajan is Chair, and Rohit I and Varsha Joshi are Research Fellows, at the International Institute of Migration and Development, Kerala. Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.