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Indian Students Protest Changed Immigration Rules In Canada; MEA Downplays Situation

| Updated: May 29, 2024 18:18

A group of former and current international students, mostly from India, have taken to the streets at Prince Edward Island (PEI) in Canada, voicing their distress over a policy shift that jeopardises their future prospects in the country.

According to reports, the controversy centres on the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), a lifeline for many international students aiming to secure permanent residency (PR) in Canada. Typically, Indian students enroll in institutions in provinces like Ontario or British Columbia. However, upon realising the fierce competition for PR in these densely populated areas, many transfer to smaller, less populated provinces like PEI.

These provinces, grappling with stagnant and aging populations, have historically relied on the PNP to attract temporary residents, thereby addressing labour shortages and sustaining population growth.

Recently, Canada has experienced an unprecedented surge in immigration. PEI, in particular, has seen more international students than its PNP could support.

The provincial government has now decided to prioritise PR for individuals working in essential sectors such as healthcare, early childhood education, and construction.

This new focus leaves many international students, who predominantly work in the food and retail industries, in a precarious position.

Compounding their woes, the federal government’s announcement in December 2023 that the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) would not be extended has left many students with limited options.

As their permits near expiration, they face the stark choice of returning to their home countries or protesting in hopes of policy reversal.

The protests, driven by desperation, recall past instances where student demonstrations led to government concessions, such as the halting of deportation for students with fraudulent admission letters. However, the current political climate has shifted. With a new immigration minister, declining government approval ratings, and increased job competition, the likelihood of government leniency seems slim.

The protesting students have outlined three primary demands.
First is, students who were already in Canada on valid work permits before the policy change should be allowed to continue under the old system.

Second, the recent exclusion of sectors like sales, services, and trucking from the PNP draws has disadvantaged many students. They are thus demanding the same opportunities as other sectors, saying that the current point system, which requires 65 points, is nearly impossible for those under 25 to achieve.

Third, students are calling for an extension of their work permits to allow more time to meet the new PR criteria.

This protest in PEI might be the first of many as international students across Canada grapple with the new reality of tighter immigration controls.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in India has acknowledged the significant number of Indian students in Canada but has downplayed the severity of the issue, stating that they are unaware of major deportation problems.

During a weekly media briefing, Randhir Jaiswal, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in India, said, “You know we have a large number of students who have gone to Canada to study. The figure is pretty significant. But what you are mentioning is that several students are facing problems that we haven’t come across as of now. Sorry, deportation. I don’t have an update on that. We are not aware of.”

Jaiswal added while there might be isolated cases, the MEA does not see a major problem affecting students in Canada overall. “There may be one case here or one case there, that’s about it. But we don’t see any major problem as far as students in Canada, as they’re concerned.”

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