Wellington, July 16 : The group of Indians who have gone missing in New Zealand, reportedly managed their entry into the country by conning Indian church leaders into believing they were devout Catholics.
According to stuff.co.nz, over 30 Indian men, aged between 17 and 35 are now believed to be in hiding, having paid 17,000 dollars to an immigration agent in India who promised to obtain residency visas for them.
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 formally began yesterday.
It is understood that about 2200 Indians were given 30-day visitor visas to spend time in New Zealand beforehand.
Some, however, disappeared from their billets soon after arriving in the country.
Many went out, saying they were simply going for a walk. They left their luggage and did not return.
Initially 32 Indian pilgrims were reported missing, but a further three disappeared yesterday, bringing the number of absentees to 35.
All of the men failed to board their flights to Sydney yesterday afternoon.
New Zealand Sikh Society Auckland spokesman Daljit Singh said he had been in contact with some of the men, who claimed to have paid thousands of dollars to an immigration agent in India.
"They are from all over India and every community. There are Catholics, Hindus and even one or two Muslims," he was quoted, as saying.
Five of the men were in Tauranga, while others had been seen wandering around Queen St in Auckland, approaching people of Indian descent for advice.
The men all had visas valid till August 5 or 6.