3 more Indians go missing in NZ, immigration scam suspected
The Times Of India
15 Jul 2008, 1112 hrs IST,PTI
MELBOURNE: Three more Indian pilgrims have disappeared in New Zealand on their way to Sydney to see the Pope at the World Youth Day celebrations, bringing to 39 the total number of missing Catholics and prompting authorities to investigate the possibility of an immigration scam.
The New Zealand Labour Department said that most of the missing pilgrims were men, aged between 17 and 35, and that they were allegedly part of a racket to stay in the country.
A total of 220 Indian Catholic pilgrims had a stopover in Auckland on their way to Sydney, where Pope Benedict XVI will lead World Youth Day celebrations later this week.
An Indian taxi driver, while taking three of the men from Auckland to Tauranga, had spoken with them about their plans and informed the New Zealand Sikh Society, media reports here said.
Society spokesman Daljit Singh made contact with two of the pilgrims and they had told him that an “agent” in India had organised all of their travel plans and visas.
The initial plan was for them to pay a deposit of 17,000 dollars (USD 12,900), which would get them multiple visas for a month.
They were to travel to Auckland then on their way to Sydney before heading back to India with 15 days left on their visas. The agent would then require another 17,000 dollars before they travelled back to New Zealand – this time to stay as long as they wanted.
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