Asian News Makers
Education Immigration Stories India Insight

Immigration tales: Crushed aspirations!!

Binny Yadav

Every immigrant is a case study in itself as each one of these have a story, unique, and individual. These can be the stories of struggle, agonies, dreams, sometime achieved and many a times broken and also of triumph. Canada is a hub of immigrants specially from South Asian population which come here with dreams and aspiration of brighter future. It is unfortunate but true that immigrants who come to Canada, never go back and talk about their struggles. Due to humiliation they never give the true picture of the jobs they do and don’t want to share their stories even to their close friends and relatives. Even their parents stay in the dark. Asian News Makers brings to you these true stories from behind the curtain. These are the stories from people who have struggled all their lives or those who have made it big. Many would be anonymous. But these are real stories of real people. Stay tuned!

Is Canadian immigration a nightmare?

Immigration tales: At airports, many of us would have come across scenes where parents are seeing off their children, going to foreign lands alone, to study. They would have sold their land, homes or farms and even cashed all their fixed deposits and pension funds; every little penny they had saved all their lives to survive on, during their twilight years. All done out of pure love for their children and also with a hope that once their children are educated, they will come back to take care of them or send them money for their old age. Their child walks inside the airport waving them goodbyes and kisses, but a few months or years later, the parents are back at the airport; no, not to welcome their child with garlands but to pick them up in body bags.

Sounds eerie, doesn’t it. No, this scene is not out of any Hollywood or Bollywood film but is becoming a common occurrence at New Delhi airports. Every month at least 8-10 Indian international students are committing suicide in Canada and are being sent back in body bags. The figure is only rising. Owner of Lotus funeral home of Toronto, Kamal Bhardwaj sees such bodies in his funeral home, now almost on a regular basis. The bodies that come to the funeral home are from Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec and other provinces and break his heart. Such cases have risen from 8 in 2018 to 33 in 2022. “We are averaging 4-5 every month but in the month of July, 2023, we already have seen 4 deaths. Due to privacy reasons, we are not told the cause of deaths but looking at the bodies, we know the reason – overdose if the youth did not wake up in the morning or death by hanging if you see those ligature marks.”

According to Statistics Canada, as many as 118,095 Indians immigrated to Canada from India compared to just 31,815 from China or 22,070 from Philippines in 2021. South Asians form as much as 7.1% of the total population in Canada. Compare that to the 2014 census, which depicted a higher number of immigrants from Philippines than India. And majority of them are students, mostly from Punjab and belonging to low or middle-income families. Families want their wards to earn expensive Canadian or American degrees, so eventually they can uplift the family. But even well off families want their children to study abroad and then settle there, as it has become a status symbol. It is easier to get a Canadian student visa than an American one. Therefore, there is a beeline outside Canadian embassy and a Canadian visa is considered a ticket to a better life.

But is it? How many of those leaving India for a higher education, are really getting a degree at the end of their term? If so, how many? Are those degrees worth getting a job? Are they able to see a Permanent Resident Status card? And how has that journey been? How strong are these youngsters mentally and physically to endure the stress of separation from families as well as the crushing hard work and mental torture that awaits them?

Canadian Immigration not a bed of Roses for students..

Let’s first discuss the type of students coming from India. In my research, I found that there are two types of students, who are unfortunately poles apart from each other. The first category of students is those who come with higher grades and are able to gain admission in reputed institutions of Canada. They come from metropolitan cities or towns, and mostly are educated in English medium schools and may belong to middle or higher strata of society. They may or may not come from well off families and may even take out loans from banks to attain their degree. Fortunately, for this category of students, finding jobs after graduation is not difficult, not because of their family backgrounds but mostly due to the fact that their degrees hold a higher value and are comparable to locals. Eventually, they get work permits, a Permanent Resident Status and go on to sponsor families and they live happily ever after in Canada.

You would think there is no story there. Everything is all rosy rosy. Not really. These students have to go through upheavals of emotions and stresses to reach their destination. For most international students, it would be the first time leaving their home; a cocoon that most Indian parents create around their children, keeping them away from the daily chores and daily stresses of life. Giving them all support in any which way, make their children too dependent on their parents, a beeline of servants and everything that comes with royal living. But once they come to Canada, they are thrown into total chaos. Going to school, attending classes and achieving good grades, is just a mere fraction of the stresses the students face. Taking care of themselves, cooking, cleaning, laundry, earning a living, shopping etc is something these innocent teenagers are not taught; neither by the parents nor in schools while in Canadian schools, home economics is a mandatory subject for every child in high school. Yet, an engineering first year student, belonging to a well off family, at the University of British Columbia, committed suicide after jumping off a building when he went home to Gurugram, during vacation, a few years back. He was an excellent student and parents are left wondering, as to the reason to this extreme step their son took.

The second category of students, regrettably, is more common. These students may be coming from villages, may or may not have gone to an English medium school and did not come out with flying colors. These are average students, belonging to lower middle class families with not too much exposure to life outside their own little village or town. These are the students who live in the border villages of Punjab and brought up on a diet of one mission – get a visa, no matter how, go to Canada and sponsor the family. To achieve that dream, these students become innocent prey to unscrupulous immigration agents, who find every loophole in the system to get them to Canada without any responsibilities.

Immigration consultancy is a booming business in Punjab. There is no qualification required to be one in India nor are there any checks by the government. A small office with a big board outside, a couple of computers and you have a business running. These agents issue admission letters of colleges, which either do not exist, or are run just like any other business. No immigration consultant advises the students what will they do till they get their status and what after. Would the PR card bring happiness or satisfaction in their lives? And why is that important? What would be the value of the diploma he is suggesting them to study?

Says Kamal Bhardwaj, who has started a charity called SUNOH, after watching the plight of these innocent youngsters, “One private college with about 6000 students, of which 99.9 percent are from India made 150 million dollars off the students, in the last few years in Ontatio. But what kind of degrees these students are being offered? These students are not able to get any jobs with these degrees from private colleges. These students have to compete with other students from accredited universities for the same position. Why would anyone hire them?”

Struggle for the students start right when they land at the airport. Says Kamal, “Predators are waiting for their prey at the airports. These innocent students’ confusion in a strange land is writ large on their faces and easily recognizable. They don’t plan ahead, they have no place to live or eat. These students easily follow these soft-spoken predators. And then starts their cycle of exploitation, which may be at work where they are made to work long hours. Girls are exploited not only by landlords but also their employers and many from our community, sadly.”

Eventually, these students fall into a cycle of exploitation and depression. They soon realize that the degrees or diplomas for which they came all the way, are worthless and not worth wasting time. They have loans to pay back home; they have to send money too and to fulfill their parents’ dream of bringing them to Canada. They have to get the coveted Permanent Resident card, as that was the only motive of moving to Canada, not education. And till then, they have to survive.

Says Rupi, who came to Canada 7 years back, belongs to a border town of Punjab, “The consultant told me that my English is good so I should appear in IELTS exam and can easily get a visa to Canada. He got me an admission letter to Columbia University in Vancouver for Mass communication. I realized soon that this was a worthless degree. My father was diagnosed with cancer and all his savings were finished on his medical treatment. But I had already paid $30,000 as fees to the college so could not leave easily. I worked 2-3 jobs a day so I could send money home. Yet, I could not save him but working so many jobs, 18 hours a day has taken a toll on my health. I would not advise anyone to do that. But I miss home and regret coming here. Now I am stuck as it would be humiliating for my mother if I go back.” Rupi is only 24 years old and an only child. “I did not have a dream of coming to Canada but sort of got pushed out by society.”

Why are so many youngsters like Rupi are being pushed out? Why are parents pushing their children away from them? As of today, Punjab is plagued with political instability, unemployment and now drug overdose crisis. Parents want to see their children succeed and for that, they are ready to watch them grow from a distance. Unfortunately, not every dream comes true.

When immigration becomes agony!

There is a joke in Canada that if you are having a heart attack, call a cab. Firstly, because ambulances take at least half an hour to come and cabs are faster. Secondly, 90 per cent chances are that the driver is a doctor and treatment can start before reaching the hospital. There are nurses and teachers from South Asian countries, working as cleaners; dentists working as realtors and security guards, mechanical engineers and bank managers too working as real tors. This is an indication that not only students have to struggle, but also the educated class of people, like doctors who can be seen driving taxis or delivering pizzas around town, are in the same boat. But that is a story for another day.

For students aiming to leave India for any country, they need to be cautious from the very day they meet a consultant. Canadian officers advise against going to an agent but filing their forms online as all information is there. If you have to go through an agent, do your homework and read reviews. Don’t get carried away with what you see on the internet; those palatial buildings or classrooms zooming with students may not be real. Make calls, talk to as many people as you can and ensure to gain admission to an accredited university or college. Education is big business and you are the raven. If you come across a college where 98 percent of students are either international or Indian, that definitely is a red flag. There are various charities like who help students look for housing, jobs and help the them any which way. Call them or send them an email at sunohcanada@gmail.comThis apart, there are many others who will give you the perfect picture of life in Canada. The journey is not a bed of roses but riddled with hardships, problems and hours of work with no sleep.

Related posts