New Zealand flies home 'scam hit' Indians stranded on Niue for two years

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Wellington, Dec 19 (ANI): The New Zealand Government has chartered an aircraft to fly nine Indians this week, after being stranded for more than two years at Niue.

The Punjabi men had been enticed to Niue with promises of employment and land.

Several Indians with permanent New Zealand residency had travelled to India and told the men that they would be given shelter and jobs on an established vanilla farm, High Vommissioner to Niue, Bryan Smythe said.

The men paid varying sums of money, believed to total in the tens of thousands of dollars, to secure their spots on the island.

When the men arrived they were told to begin clearing bush to start a vanilla plantation and given dilapidated old buildings to live in, Stuff.co.nz quoted Smythe, as saying.

Promises of wages proved false and the men had been forced to grow vegetable to eat and sell in order to survive, he said.

Authorities became aware of the men's plight months ago, but Smythe said it was difficult to prove criminal acts in these cases.

The men's "sponsor" who owned the land they were housed and worked on was approached by local authorities who asked him to pay for the men's flights back to India, but he refused.

A representative from the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) was flown out from Canberra and made an assessment on the men's situation. The IOM then organised their return home, with New Zealand picking up the bill.

"New Zealand has a special relationship with Niue. It's part of the realm of New Zealand so what happens on Niue affects our reputation. It's been of concern to us for a long time," Smythe said.

He saw the men off at the airport this week and said they were very grateful to New Zealand for helping them.

Some of the men had not seen their wives since leaving India, having expected to bring their families over after they became established on the island. (ANI)

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