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Missing India pilgrims included Hindus, Muslims


Melbourne: The 39 Indian "pilgrims" , who came to New Zealand on the pretext of seeing the Pope during World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney but have gone missing, were not all Catholics but included Hindus and Muslims.

New Zealand Sikh Society spokesman Daljit Singh, who was in contact with some of the missing pilgrims, said the Indians claimed to be victims of an immigration racket and were charged thousands of dollars by an agent in India on a false promise of permanent residency.

Two of the men, Singh said, he had spoken to were not even Catholics.

"They are from all over India and every community. There are Catholics, Hindus and even one or two Muslims," Singh said, adding he was upset by the group's behaviour, which he felt reflected badly on the Indian community in New Zealand.

Some of the Indians were seen wandering around Queen St in Auckland, approaching people of Indian descent for advice.

The men had visas valid till August 5 or 6 but had to take a Sydney-bound flight yesterday, Singh said, adding he was planning to arrange a meeting between the Indians and immigration officials to encourage them to return home before their visas expired.

Catholic communications director Lyndsay Freer said the pilgrims had gone through a vigorous selection process in India, which would have required "serious dishonesty" to circumvent, New Zealand's One News TV channel reported.

"It's really disappointing that World Youth Day, which is a wonderful celebration for young Catholics, appears to be used for a scam," she said.

The church had passports of 33 of the men and the absconders would have few options, Freer said.

"They can't go anywhere ... except to ground," she said

New Zealand Catholic churches have been hosting 4000 pilgrims in the run-up to World Youth Day. The pilgrims are then supposed to head on to the event in Sydney which will conclude on Sunday.

About 2,200 Indians were reportedly given 30-day visitor visas to spend time in New Zealand beforehand.

Source:PTI

1 comments:

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