27 March, 2017/Sydney
I am hearing a lot of commentary about exploitation of Indian students and newer migrants from India.
I am copying a transcript of a landmark report from ABC Four Corners Program. Four Corners is a top-rank program on investigative Journalism. This dealt with this issues in 2009.
Not much has changed since.
Transcript of ABC Four Corners Program
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Four Corners’ investigative report of 27 July, 2009 by Wendy Carlisle gives a terse account of the events in Melbourne. The transcript of the report is being reproduced STUDENT PROTESTERS: We want justice, we want justice
WENDY CARLISLE: In late May and early June, Australians were astonished to see thousands of Indian students protesting on the streets of Melbourne and Sydney. Their complaints – muggings and bashings and police indifference.
INDIAN MAN: He got beaten by three guys.
(Indian man demonstrating wounds)
INDIAN MAN 2: In front of all the policemen. And still they are assuring that they will give us security. What kind of security?
WENDY CARLISLE: Coverage in India bordered on hysterical.
(Excerpt of footage from Indian News)
INDIAN MAN 3: My parents are calling please every half hour. Please come back. If nothing is happening, come back.
INDIAN NEWS REPORTER: So what will it take for Mr Kevin Rudd to finally wake up?
KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: Our Indian community has been such a vital contributor to our culture, to our life, to our food, to our music. My kids love Bollywood, you know, Bollywood is a thing with all of our kids, they just love it. So we actually have this deep affection for your country and for your culture and I always say this too, imagine if we never had Indian food in our Australia, we would be sentenced to 100 years of English cuisine.
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: There’s more at stake than being rescued from a century of bad British food. India is one of the main buyers of Australian education – after coal and iron ore, it’s our third biggest export earner. But Australia’s education exports face much deeper problems than safety issues, there’s now a rising clamour over dodgy courses, student rip-offs and an education system that’s turned into a visa factory.
PUSHPINDER KAUR, STUDENT’S MOTHER: It is a fraud, it is we were shown so many rosy pictures about the school, actually it is not what it was really, what it really is, it is only, it was just a scam.
WENDY CARLISLE: If there is one principle that governs the export of Australian education, it is now simply money.
BOB BIRRELL, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Well, basically they’ve been bedazzled by the dollars.
WENDY CARLISLE: On Four Corners tonight, the dirty secret behind Australia’s other education revolution.
(On Screen Text: Holy Cash Cows, Reporter: Wendy Carlisle)
(On Screen Text: Crash Landing)
(On Screen Text: Hyderabad, India)
WENDY CARLISLE: Last year 75,000 Indian students came to Australia to buy an education, and the possibility of a new and more prosperous life.
(On Screen Text: 9 July 2009)
Pushpinder Kaur and her son – aspiring pilot Prabmeet Singh – are preparing to meet with a high level delegation of Australian bureaucrats, police and academics. For Prabmeet Singh studying in Australia was a deeply unhappy experience and there is much unfinished business.
(Excerpt of footage of Pushpinder Kaur and Prabmeet Singh driving in a car)
PRABMEET SINGH, STUDENT: Let’s hope we can find some help this time.
PUSHPINDER KAUR, STUDENT’S MOTHER: You went to get wings but your wings are clipped actually.
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: The highly publicised Australian delegation has been rushed to India. It’s an exercise in damage control.
(Excerpt of footage from delegation meeting)
COLIN WALTERS, FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: The education system of Australia has no time for racism in any form and absolutely condemns attacks on students, attacks on Indians.
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: But safety isn’t what many of these parents have come to complain about. Pushpinder Kaur says a Sydney flying school has taken their money, left their family broke and her son with no pilots licence.
PUSHPINDER KAUR, STUDENT’S MOTHER: The first instalment we had to pay in advance that is for about $3,500, the total is about $43,000, and when the whole of the amount has been credited to the account of the aviation school there, which is known as Aerospace, and the chief flying instructor’s name is Sue Davis and she has taken the whole of the amount and after that she has stopped imparting any training or given any training flying hours to the students there.
My son and one of the other students is here, right before this honourable delegation. And they have come back, and their careers are ruined and we have lost all that money which we have sent there.
COLIN WALTERS, FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: We will take the depositions back and we will have a look, we will talk to the authorities in New South Wales and we will also look at our own legislation and see if there is any further possibility of intervening in that case.
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: Pushpinder Kaur has heard all this before.
PUSHPINDER KAUR, STUDENT’S MOTHER: I’d just like to advise the honourable Australian members that already we have taken this matter up with the state regulatory bodies like VETAB (Vocational Education and Training Accreditation Board) and DEEWR (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relations), but nothing has been done so far.
COLIN WALTERS, FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: Righto. Well we’ll certainly take that back with us and see if there is anymore we can do. Thank you very much.
PUSHPINDER KAUR, STUDENT’S MOTHER: Thank you.
(End of Excerpt)
PRABMEET SINGH, STUDENT: It feels really sad, really bad, because I had gone there to fulfil my dream to become a pilot. But you know all my dreams have been shattered.
WENDY CARLISLE: If Prabmeet Singh’s dreams have been shattered, back in Australia his friend Surendra Egalapati is still trying to keep his dream of becoming a pilot alive.
SURENDRA EGALAPATI, STUDENT: I was very passionate about flying. I liked flying to fly, so I started this career in 07.
WENDY CARLISLE: Like Prabmeet Singh the school Surendra Egalapati chose was Aerospace Aviation run by Sue Davis.
SUE DAVIS, AEROSPACE AVIATION: We welcome having overseas students with us. They all bring delightful experience with them and we enjoy their time. May I add that our student of the year for the last two years has actually been a different Indian student.
WENDY CARLISLE: Surendra Egalapati is now at a different flying school. But within months of starting at Aerospace Aviation things started to go wrong.
SURENDRA EGALAPATI, STUDENT: I started complaining in the month of October. First I went to the Indian High commission, I complained there and they had a meeting with them and Sue Davis has assured that this is not going to repeat again. And the same thing, they have Indian high commission has told me that and after that the same thing is again repeating and repeating.
(Excerpt of footage of meeting between Indian students)
INDIAN STUDENT: All we guys are doing is refund what is not used from the college.
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: Soon he discovered other students in the class of 2007 were having similar problems.
VISHAL SARAWAT, STUDENT: There were not enough planes not even, not enough instructors. I was like flying with around 21 instructors you know.
WENDY CARLISLE: Twenty-one instructors?
VISHAL SARAWAT, STUDENT: Instructors for this and like, it was like there was no responsibility in the school’s part, like it was like I have to beg to instructors to give me flight, like “give me flight, I want to fly, I want to fly”.
MUKESH PINDORIA, STUDENT: The rest of the time, well, go to school and you were told to sit under a tree with some plastic chairs around to hoping that someone does not show up and you get that flight.
WENDY CARLISLE: Sit under a tree?
MUKESH PINDORIA, STUDENT: Yes.
WENDY CARLISLE: Can you describe that for me? What was the scene?
MUKESH PINDORIA, STUDENT: Well, it’s just under a tree. You don’t have any other facilities. You’re just standing, even if it rains, you have to be out there. I mean there is no any other facilities inside where you can accommodate all the students.
WENDY CARLISLE: So how many would there be of you sitting under the tree at any one time?
MUKESH PINDORIA, STUDENT: Any one time, you might find 20, 25 students sitting under a tree.
WENDY CARLISLE: Scott Alex is a former student at Aerospace Aviation. He also quit the school over not getting his flying hours and was disturbed by what he saw.
SCOTT ALEX, STUDENT: It was definitely derogatory the way they spoke to them, the way they treated them.
WENDY CARLISLE: Can you give me an example?
SCOTT ALEX, STUDENT: Instructors or management?
WENDY CARLISLE: Take your pick.
SCOTT ALEX, STUDENT: Um okay instructors hating flying with curry eating Indian stinking yellow so on, and management, I know of a case where the operations manager actually pushed around a student who was complaining, so they just basically raised their voice and in the Indian culture you don’t raise your voice, it’s very rude. You especially don’t swear.
WENDY CARLISLE: The students had signed up for a commercial pilots’ licence course. Costing $43,500, Aerospace Aviation was to deliver 200 hours of flying over 52 weeks. But in Surendra Egalapati’s case, he only received 130 hours over an 18 month period. A story it seems, repeated throughout the school
KAPIL RAJ, STUDENT: In the matter of four or five months I could only get 17.9 hours of flying.
YASWANTH MUDUNURI, STUDENT: I got only 50.9 hours of flying.
ARUN KUMER, STUDENT: I did 46 hours in 16 months.
VISHAL SARAWAT, STUDENT: I will use the word wasted my time, 16 months being there, like achieving nothing over there.
SUE DAVIS, AEROSPACE AVIATION: Aviation requires a commitment. We provide the facilities, the aircraft, the highly qualified trainers, but it must be matched by the student’s desire to reach a safety standard. I won’t back down from that. I take that most seriously, as a delegate of CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) that these students must meet the requirements.
We have provided everything that those students need to get through the course. The students need to provide the diligence, the dedication and the commitment.
WENDY CARLISLE: So are the students lying? Why would the students do this?
SUE DAVIS, AEROSPACE AVIATION: I think students when they’re away from home perhaps don’t meet up to their parents’ expectations. As a mother myself, I understand when our children let us down. And it’s a young man’s issue that they have to now face up to the fact that they haven’t provided the diligence that they require to get through the course.
(Excerpt of footage of reconstruction – students going to DEEWR headquarters)
WENDY CARLISLE: By October last year so many of Aerospace Aviation’s students were complaining, that DEEWR – the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations – invited them down to their Sydney headquarters to hear their stories. Twenty-six Indian students turned up, as well as Scott Alex.
(End of Excerpt)
SCOTT ALEX, STUDENT: They said to me, we’re too nervous, we want you to come with us. So I did. And when they asked what’s happening, everybody was quiet. And then I said one thing, one point like “you have to pay $5,000 a month whether you fly or not, that’s a bit wrong”, and then everybody just started talking. So I just went there for moral support I guess you could say.
WENDY CARLISLE: And with the department, the officers, did they give any undertakings to actually fix the problems? What did they say that they were going to do?
SCOTT ALEX, STUDENT: Oh yeah, they were shocked, they were shocked and appalled with everything we said, yeah.
WENDY CARLISLE: But if the officials from DEEWR were shocked by what they were hearing – they were slow in reacting. The students felt their complaints had disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole.
SURENDRA EGALAPATI, STUDENT: I don’t think so they’re running an investigation. I do the, if they do an investigation it could take hardly two months or one month, not more than that. But it has been some six to seven months till now.
WENDY CARLISLE: And you’ve heard nothing?
SURENDRA EGALAPATI, STUDENT: And we, we didn’t heard anything from them.
WENDY CARLISLE: After eight months of waiting for the Department’s response they gave up and took a dramatic step to recover their money.
MUKESH PINDORIA, STUDENT: Well if someone would have listened to us we complained to the school first, and then we went to the Department of Education. We went to Department of Immigration too and Department of Education and Employment and Workplace Relations, but no one listened to us and now we have ended up here in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
WENDY CARLISLE: Eight of the Class of 2007 filed a statutory demand notice on Aerospace Aviation calling for the refund of $157,000 or the company would be wound up. Last month it went to the New South Wales Supreme Court where the students were in for a nasty surprise.
(On Screen Graphic – Sue Davis’ Affidavit)
WENDY CARLISLE: In her affidavit, Sue Davis included a five page report from DEEWR – which appears to be an investigation into the students who launched the legal action.
Surprisingly, this document didn’t address the detail of the students’ complaints nor did it examine their side of the argument, but nevertheless concluded “it would seem the students complaints have little or no foundation”.
WENDY CARLISLE (to Sue Davis): I’m just trying to understand why DEEWR would only be investigating or making a finding on the students in this document which were the ones that appeared before the Supreme Court.
SUE DAVIS, AEROSPACE AVIATION: Well I’m sorry, you’d have to ask DEEWR that.
WENDY CARLISLE: Is it coincidence?
SUE DAVIS, AEROSPACE AVIATION: You’d have to ask DEEWR that. I can’t answer for DEEWR.
WENDY CARLISLE: So how did this document end up before the Supreme Court? We asked the Department of Education to explain just why it conducted an apparently one sided investigation on behalf of Aerospace Aviation into the Indian students.
(On Screen Graphic – written statement from Department of Education)
WENDY CARLISLE: In a written statement, the Department told four corners “for privacy reasons it would be inappropriate to discuss individual cases”.
The Department’s conduct raises fundamental questions about the integrity of the Government’s investigations into student’s complaints. Four Corners requested an interview with Education Minister Julia Gillard but she declined.
KARL KONRAD, AUST. IMMIGRATION LAW SERVICES: It seems to me that the protection of the school and the business interests of the school overrides the protection of the student or the student’s right to know, or any other Australian citizen’s right to know as far as I can see.
WENDY CARLISLE: But you got the Deputy Prime Minister saying she is committed to ensuring quality in the education that we provide international students. Do you question that commitment?
KARL KONRAD, AUST. IMMIGRATION LAW SERVICES: I openly question that commitment because the quality of their investigations would have to be regarded with anybody, with any investigation experience as a joke.
WENDY CARLISLE: But for Surendra Egalapati, the greatest surprise was yet to come. In her affidavit, Sue Davis makes the claim that his plane had strayed out of the training zone and into Sydney controlled airspace on July 29, 2007.
WENDY CARLISLE (to Surendra Egalapati): It says on 29th of July that you penetrated Sydney airspace. Did you this?
SURENDRA EGALAPATI, STUDENT: I didn’t do this. I started my flying from August 21st, 07. The proof is my log book. This is my logbook. And my first flight is August 21, here at 07. This is a false evidence, I don’t know what evidence she is going to show, but I can, this is my proof.
WENDY CARLISLE (to Sue Davis): Did you swear a false affidavit in order to smear the character of Surendra?
SUE DAVIS, AEROSPACE AVIATION: I did not swear any false affidavits at all, the documentation was before the courts. Mr Surendra did not advise us that there were problems that he could see, we understand that the paperwork was correct.
WENDY CARLISLE: This is your document, that you have submitted before the Supreme Court.
SUE DAVIS, AEROSPACE AVIATION: That’s correct.
WENDY CARLISLE: That you swear is true.
SUE DAVIS, AEROSPACE AVIATION: And Mr Surendra has a copy of that.
WENDY CARLISLE: Sue Davis has now told Four Corners she made an error in her affidavit.
Earlier this month the students’ case against Aerospace Aviation was set aside here in the Supreme Court, the court found the students had pursued the wrong legal route against the flying school and ordered them to pay costs which could amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
And now, in what must seem a cruel twist to the students, the New South Wales Government has found that the flying school has been using unqualified flying instructors – an offence so serious it risks losing its registration.
VISHAL SARAWAT, STUDENT: Obviously I’m very angry. I’ve like taken a loan. It’s a big loan and I paid the money to the school. I came here for a purpose, which is like I haven’t got anything, I haven’t got the my commercial pilot licence.
WENDY CARLISLE: The experiences of the Indian students at aerospace aviation are not an isolated example. Karl Konrad, a Sydney migration agent, has been trying to raise the issue.
KARL KONRAD, AUST. IMMIGRATION LAW SERVICES: I mean for years I’ve been writing about dodgy education providers in Sydney and nobody cares. I’ve even sent my newsletters about them to the Commonwealth Government and didn’t, don’t even get a response.
Nobody comes and asks me you know what’s going on in Sydney because they don’t really care, but certainly since the international students have come out, it’s brought up yes their safety issues, but there’s all these other issues which have been going on that nobody has cared about.
(On Screen Text: Cooking the Books)
WENDY CARLISLE: In the past most foreign students came to Australia, studied and took their degrees home. In 2005 that started to change. In an attempt to address Australia’s skills shortage the Federal Government allowed students to undertake vocational courses and then stay in Australia.
Literally hundreds of private colleges have sprung up offering courses in hairdressing, cooking and accounting.
BOB BIRRELL, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Make no mistake, the driver for this explosion in vocational college enrolments of the past few years has been the carrot of permanent residence or getting into the Australian labour market.
(Excerpt from PR video – AIFE)
STUDENT: Studies which I’ll be completing right now from AIFE is all based on managerial subjects now in advance diploma.
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: This cooking school in Sydney’s inner west is one of the fastest growing businesses in Australia. Four years ago Austech was turning over just $1 million a year – now it’s turning over more than $30 million a year.
In 2008 Austech’s enrolments had climbed to over 1,600 even though it was only registered for just 124 students. How this was allowed to occur is baffling. Four corners talked to one former employee of Austech – who on condition of anonymity agreed to tell us how the college kept signing up more students.
FORMER EMPLOYEE (actors voice): Management said keep enrolling, the Government won’t close us down because where will the students go? It was a factory. We used to laugh in our office about VETAB and the Department of Immigration, how could they not have known what was happening? They were handing out all the student visas. I thought at the end of the day they had contacts in the right places in Canberra.
WENDY CARLISLE: Late last year the New South Wales Government finally ordered Austech to halt its enrolments. They said Austech didn’t have enough kitchens and had effectively defaulted on providing the courses it was marketing.
For many of Austech students not having enough kitchens wouldn’t be that much of a problem, many students have come simply to do the course and qualify for permanent residency.
But not so for Kumar Khatri from Nepal. He genuinely wanted to be a chef. After 6 months at Austech hadn’t seen the inside of a kitchen, he wasn’t even sure Austech had one.
KUMAR KHATRI, STUDENT: No, no I didn’t believe that there is a kitchen for the college because I haven’t seen the college kitchen.
WENDY CARLISLE: You never saw the kitchen?
KUMAR KHATRI, STUDENT: No, no I haven’t seen it.
WENDY CARLISLE: You don’t think the college had a kitchen?
KUMAR KHATRI, STUDENT: Yeah, I came to know that boys told, my friends that there is a kitchen for the college but I haven’t seen, because they didn’t take me. Not only me, my friends, along well, those Australians were studying with me didn’t see the college kitchen.
WENDY CARLISLE: Kumar Khatri decided to call it quits. He notified the college – in accordance with the rules – and enrolled elsewhere. What came next was unexpected.
KUMAR KHATRI, STUDENT: I was happy and when I begin my college it was around a gap of three months and I got a letter from the professional debt collector.
WENDY CARLISLE: He was told to pay AUSTECH $5,000 or be taken to court.
KUMAR KHATRI, STUDENT: And I just went directly to the college and he told me it’s clear if you’re going to pay you pay. If you do not pay we will just process the file, we’ll take it to the immigration, your visa will be cancelled, Kumar for your kindness, please pay the amount.
WENDY CARLISLE: Kumar Khatri was furious, he went to see migration agent Biwek Thapa who by then was also helping six other Nepalese students deal with Austech’s debt collectors.
BIWEK THAPA, EDUCATION AND MIGRATION AGENT: I emailed back to the assistant CEO and his name is Umesh Banga, and I said “look I think we need to resolve this internally before it goes to media or before it goes to external appeal”, which could be Ombudsman or Department of Fair Trading or ACPET (Australian Council for Private Education and Training) or could be anyone.
So before it gets further, let’s be civilised and get this sorted and make it fair to the international students as well. Or tell us what you have to say if you think that they do owe you the money. No response. And a month later, I received a letter in the mail by post, from their lawyer saying Dear Mr Biwek Thapa, we’re sorry that we took more than a month to actually get back to you. We have we have decided to withdraw the case.
WENDY CARLISLE: Why do you think the college hit these students with bills for $5,000?
BIWEK THAPA, EDUCATION AND MIGRATION AGENT: I think it was a complete exploitation of international students because of the ignorance, they’re new in the country, they’re not, they’re not confident even to talk – communication problem – they’re scared their visa could be cancelled, enrolment could be cancelled.
They would get into all sorts of problem. They don’t have money to go to a court and fight the case. It’s just a try, try to see if they can get money out of these people.
WENDY CARLISLE: Austech’s assistant CEO Umesh Banga declined our offer of an interview to discuss these allegations. Four corners then discovered he’d been planning his own media offensive. He had tried – unsuccessfully – to enlist the support of a new students union, led by Navjot Singh.
WENDY CARLISLE (to Navjot Singh): So you went to Umesh Banga to ask him if you could get permission to go to his campus and recruit students for your organization, your student representative organization.
NAVJOT SINGH, ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ASSOC.: Yep.
WENDY CARLISLE: And what did he say to you. Ok come on?
NAVJOT SINGH, ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ASSOC.: I can’t recall his exact word, but the words were effect to ah, I stop collecting $10 from students, I will give you the cheque but in return you need to go to ABC and he was showing that he’s getting calls from Wendy Carlisle and I suppose that’s your name. And he said I can set interview for you and you just need to go there and talk something good about Austech.
WENDY CARLISLE: And he offered you money to do that?
NAVJOT SINGH, ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ASSOC.: Yes.
WENDY CARLISLE: How much did he offer you?
NAVJOT SINGH, ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ASSOC.: Ah he did not put, put an amount but he said “whatever you want we will give you the money”.
WENDY CARLISLE: A blank cheque?
NAVJOT SINGH, ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ASSOC.: Yeah.
WENDY CARLISLE: And why did you say no?
NAVJOT SINGH, ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ASSOC.: Because we are not for sale.
WENDY CARLISLE: Why did you decide to come forward to Four Corners and say this?
NAVJOT SINGH, ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ASSOC.: Because I feel that somebody need to come forward and expose what’s happening out in private colleges.
WENDY CARLISLE: Umesh Banga denies this. He told Four Corners he’d never offered money to Navjot Singh.
(On Screen Text: Greasing the Wheels)
WENDY CARLISLE: The pitfalls for foreign students are many – not just dodgy colleges. To navigate the red tape of how to study and stay in Australia many students often turn to unscrupulous education and migration agents.
ARVIND SURI, MIGRANT: Yeah, at that time it was really good when I came in this country and I start studying, so things were going very good at that time.
(Excerpt of footage from wedding video of Arvind Suri and Priya Suri)
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: Arvind Suri graduated with his MA in engineering management and decided he wanted to live in Australia in January 2007. His parents had arranged for him to marry Priya who had a Masters in microbiology. Between them they would have enough points to gain permanent residency, and start a new life together.
ARVIND SURI, MIGRANT: They said like, it’s good like you are getting settled in your life. You are getting your permanent residency and after that you because you are masters you will get a good job and you will get settled in your life, and also you will get married, so your marriage status going to be good.
(Excerpt of footage of Arvind Suri and Wendy Carlisle watching wedding video)
ARVIND SURI, MIGRANT: My father in law is singing a song for blessings of the Lord, that everything is happening under the (inaudible) of the Lord. So, everything will go well.
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: Arvind Suri sought the help of lawyer and migration agent Sam Tejani seen here at a recent community fundraiser. Acting on Sam Tejani’s advice Arvind Suri brought his bride to Australia.
ARVIND SURI, MIGRANT: He said like it it’s a very simple condition, you don’t need to worry about that. You guys are married and immigration department wouldn’t mind that a husband needs to stay with the wife. It’s very obvious, they need to understand that so you don’t worry about that.
WENDY CARLISLE: Three months after Priya’s arrival in Sydney the couple discovered that Sam Tejani had bungled their permanent residency application. Priya had been included as a non-migrating spouse, and she had just two days to leave the country.
ARVIND SURI, MIGRANT: (Cries) She went back and I went straight to Mr Tejani and I said why you made a big mess in my application? He said it’s not a mess, it’s just like immigration department don’t understand, but ah you will get your permanent residency in the same application, so.
WENDY CARLISLE: He was still promising it?
ARVIND SURI, MIGRANT: He was still promising me.
WENDY CARLISLE: Did you believe him?
ARVIND SURI, MIGRANT: I was such a big idiot, I was believing him.
WENDY CARLISLE: Finally Arvind Suri stopped believing and complained to MARA – the Migration Agents Registration Authority.
(On Screen Graphic: document from Migration Agents Registration Authority)
WENDY CARLISLE: The authority found that Tejani “had tried to mislead the Authority, was not a person of integrity, and was not a fit and proper person to provide immigration assistance”. MARA
found that Tejani would pose “a serious risk to future clients if he continues to practice” and on August 13, 2008 suspended him for 2 years.
Not able to gain work as an engineering manager because he hasn’t got permanent residency, Arvind Suri now works in a Sydney supermarket. He has suicidal thoughts, and his wife Priya is still in India and she’s threatening to divorce him.
ARVIND SURI, MIGRANT: There is going to be a blot on my career and my fate forever that I spoiled my wife’s visa and I used her physically and emotionally and sent her back to India.
(On Screen Text: reconstruction)
To add insult to injury, in January Arvind discovered that even though Sam Tejani was banned from working as a migration agent, he was still plying his wares. Arvind Suri emailed MARA to let them know.
Arvind Suri wrote, “I saw him distributing his business card to students on town hall square. It feels to me it’s against the law and order of Australia”. But before the regulator would investigate they asked Arvind to provide further information such as how he knew Sam Tejani was receiving cash payments.
Four Corners discovered that Sam Tejani is trading as a sole solicitor even though he is not licensed to do so. He’s also holding himself out to be a migration agent, despite being banned for two years. These aren’t the only areas where Sam Tejani is skirting the law. He’s also helping students to cheat the English language test, one of the pillars of the education and immigration system.
To expose this practice Four Corners recruited a young Indian reporter to go undercover – she found Sam Tejani was willing to provide her with a number of options to pass the test. One of them was that someone else would sit the test for her.
UNDERCOVER REPORTER: Somebody smarter and who could obviously get a better score than I can, would go into the test and the examiners would keep quiet about it. Or that the examiners would switch the answer papers. I would go in but they’d switch the answer papers with the right answers and they could do that because they were friends of his and that he does people favours and then they return the favours.
WENDY CARLISLE: How much did he say that this would cost you?
UNDER COVER REPORTER: He was very reluctant to name the exact price and I kept pushing and he said three, four, maximum $5,000. If I did not go through him and if I tried to in the open market, he says it costs about $20,000, but because he knows these people it’ll cost about five.
WENDY CARLISLE (On phone to Sam Tejani): Mr Tejani hi, its Wendy Carlisle here from the Four Corners program.
WENDY CARLISLE: Four Corners asked Mr Tejani for an interview but he refused, in a written response he denied the allegation and says he never offered to sell the English language test to anyone. Mr Tejani has now removed the registered migration agent and solicitors sign from his office.
(On Screen Text: The Work Experience Scam)
WENDY CARLISLE: For any students wanting to remain in Australia they must prove that they have done 900 hours of work experience in their chosen trade. Like the English language test, there is evidence of a flourishing black market in these certificates.
KARL KONRAD, AUST. IMMIGRATION LAW SERVICES: There’s no doubt that the fake experience certificates or the letters that they need to pass the skill assessment process is very widespread and we brought this to the attention to the Immigration Department years ago, but it wasn’t really acted on.
WENDY CARLISLE: Well how did you bring it to their attention?
KARL KONRAD, AUST. IMMIGRATION LAW SERVICES: We sent an email. I had many students come to my officers and say “oh I can buy letters for $3,000 at particular restaurants”. They didn’t name the restaurants, but the fact that I was getting many of these type of stories that we sent that information to the Immigration Department and they in turn thanked us for the information and said they would pass it on to Trade Recognition Australia. Nothing ever became of that and I didn’t see any increase in the screening of those type of documentation.
WENDY CARLISLE: For the agents working in this area there is a reluctance to discuss this. Sanjay Deshwal is a leading migration agent in Sydney.
WENDY CARLISLE (to Sanjay Deshwal): Well how widespread do you think a racket is in work experience certificates?
SANJAY DESHWAL, EDUCATION AND MIGRATION AGENT: I wouldn’t have a clue because clients come to us, and if a client brings to us the document we are not doing an investigative job. As a migration agent if you come to me for example from overseas or from a college over here, I have got no jurisdiction to check the authenticity of the documents.
You come to me and say okay this is my qualification from overseas, this is my qualification from Australia, this is my work experience letter, I have to lodge on the good faith. It’s up to the assessing bodies and up to the Department of Immigration to investigate and monitor them.
WENDY CARLISLE: So you don’t think it’s a widespread scam that’s operating?
SANJAY DESHWAL, EDUCATION AND MIGRATION AGENT: No, no. I won’t go into that much like detail like. There are obviously like, when such a big market and such a what do you call, opportunism is there, then a lot of people will try to cash on on the bandwagon.
WENDY CARLISLE: Several students told Four Corners that in student circles, Sanjay Deshwal is known as the go-to man for fake documents. We sent our undercover reporter in to test these claims. He told her he could arrange for a work experience certificate from a restaurant.
WENDY CARLISLE (to undercover reporter): Did he say how much these work experience certificates would cost you?
UNDERCOVER REPORTER: Three to $4,000.
WENDY CARLISLE: He was in effect offering to broker this deal for you was he?
UNDERCOVER REPORTER: Yes, yes.
WENDY CARLISLE: Did you make it clear to Sanjay Deshwal that you didn’t want to work for these work experience certificates?
UNDERCOVER REPORTER: Yes, yes, yes, I did tell him that I know people that wanted me to work for free to get that certificate, but I did not want to actually work. I had the money and I just needed the certificate and he said I wouldn’t have to work for a single second inside that kitchen.
WENDY CARLISLE (On phone to Sanjay Deshwal): Mr Deshwal hi, it’s Wendy Carlisle here from Four Corners. I’m very well, thank you.
WENDY CARLISLE: Mr Deshwal initially agreed to an interview but by the time Four Corners arrived at his office he’d changed his mind. The interview was off and he strongly denied the allegations.
While the Government has been happy to boast about Australia’s education industry, hard questions must now be asked.
(Excerpt of footage from Australian delegation meeting in India)
PARENT: We have already taken loans.
AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION DELEGATE: I understand, I understand
(End of Excerpt)
WENDY CARLISLE: Why have the scams, dodgy colleges and corrupt practices been allowed to flourish on its watch?
BOB BIRRELL, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Well, basically they’ve been bedazzled by the dollars. As the, as the figured mounted in billions, every year and, and they could proudly say that this is a $15 billion industry, more than wheat, wool, and meat put together, there’s, there’s perhaps an understandable reluctance to look critically at the foundation of the industry.
MUKESH PINDORIA, STUDENT: Australia is not a good place to go because people even complaining about the schools and the Governments is doing nothing about it.
PUSHPINDER KAUR, STUDENT’S MOTHER: I think the Government should be more alert in these type of matters because it is, it is the career of the children which is at stake.
(Excerpt of footage from Australian Delegation meeting in India)
COLIN WALTERS, FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: So unfortunately we need to wrap it up now, we’ve got another meeting to go to. I am afraid we need to wrap it up now. If you’ve got any other questions perhaps I’ll…
INDIAN AUDIENCE MEMBER: What is the basic reason…
COLIN WALTERS, FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: I am sorry Sir, but we’ll now wrap it up and if you’ve got any more questions perhaps you can catch members of the delegation on the way out. Thank you very much indeed everyone.
WENDY CARLISLE: The Government needs to clean up the rot and restore confidence in our education industry. The consequences of not doing so will be dire. Our 3rd biggest export earner could be a $15 billion bubble about to burst, and Australia’s reputation irreparably damaged.