“When they needed us, they exploited us.”  Indian students in Canada

“When they needed us, they exploited us.” Indian students in Canada

“When they needed us, they exploited us.” Indian students in Canada

“When they needed us, they exploited us.”  Indian students in Canada

Some foreign students accuse Canada of using them as cheap labor. (representative)

Some foreign students accuse the Canadian government of using them as a cheap source of labor and discarding them when they are no longer needed.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government allowed about 50,000 foreign students to stay for 18 months after graduation to look for work, at a time when the economy was reopening from the Covid shutdowns and companies needed to hire.

The government sold the permit extension as a way to “help more graduates fill urgent needs” in key fields and allow them to gain the work experience needed for permanent immigration. But a year and a half later, some of these permanent residence aspirants are left without status to work or stay in the country.

“I’m basically sitting at home living off my savings, and I don’t know how much longer I have to do that,” Daniel D’Souza, an accountant and former student at Seneca College near Toronto, said in an interview. “I regret choosing Canada as a country to immigrate, study and live. Canada needs to value foreign students more, not just use them as a form of cheap labor.”

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s department said it is considering ways to better support those who want to settle permanently in the country. The government “recognizes the enormous social, cultural and economic benefits” that foreign students bring, spokesman Geoffrey MacDonald said in an emailed statement.

Like many graduates who were part of the 2021 program, Mr. D’Souza’s career is now on hold and his future is uncertain. These former students, many from India and the Philippines, were forced to leave their jobs when their work permits expired, with no guarantee that they would be granted permanent residency. Even if their applications are ultimately successful, they are left in limbo for months without work, income or health and social benefits.

“When they needed us, they exploited us. But when we need their help or support, no one turns up,” said Anshdeep Bindra, a former consultant at Ernst & Young in Toronto. “We pay duties and taxes and get nothing in return. You don’t understand that we are the people who helped you solve the labor shortage.”

New targets

Prime Minister Trudeau’s government, which plans to welcome a record number of new immigrants over the next three years to offset an aging workforce, is scheduled to announce updated targets Tuesday morning in Toronto.

“Those who take advantage of this public policy are given a similar or, in many cases, greater opportunity to gain skilled work experience as graduates had before the pandemic,” Mr Macdonald said.

Foreign graduates hoped the permit extension would give them more time to gain Canadian work experience and raise their scores under the country’s immigration ranking system for skilled workers.

But these graduates were caught in a backlog of applications that led to a 10-month shutdown of the system to allow the government to process them. After the system reopened, students found themselves competing against groups of immigrants with much higher scores than the norm, reducing their chances of obtaining permanent residency.

The immigration department said the temporary pause allowed the system to achieve results and that “reducing or ending invitations to apply to manage the growing backlog is part of what the system was designed to do.”

Almost 40% of all permanent residents admitted in 2021 were former international students, a record, according to the department. The government reported that since July of this year, 26,250 invitations to apply for permanent residence have been issued, of which 10,212 were given to foreign students or graduates.

But that’s little comfort to those still waiting, or their former employers. “Now the company will have to find another person to replace me when I’m already here,” said Leoville Duatin, who worked at a real estate company in Caledonia, Ontario. “It feels like they just want us to work here to get our taxes and get rid of us.”

Not only do international students contribute more than $US21 billion ($15.3 billion) a year to the economy, according to the government, but each year tens of thousands of graduates who decide to immigrate permanently become a source of young, educated workers. They can also play a key role in addressing the current workforce crisis and future labor market needs, economists at the Royal Bank of Canada said in a report last month.

The government should “prioritize people who have paid for an education here, have experience here and are connected to employers here,” said Amira Ali, a rental specialist at a property management company in Calgary. “They are forcing us into a corner and leaving us without solutions”.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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