New Delhi (AsiaNews) – “There is no definite news; just what they say on TV and in the news. But it has created a very bad impression about Indians here,” said Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest, as he commented the disappearance of 39 Indian pilgrims who were supposed to arrive in Australia today for World Youth Day. Initially 32 vanished yesterday and then today another seven went missing.
The small group was part of a 220 strong delegation from India. The first group took advantage of a stopover in New Zealand to run off.
The Indian pilgrims were given one-month New Zealand visitor visas but they eventually left their host families without leaving a trace.
The New Zealand Labour Department is working with the Catholic Church in Auckland to find the runaways or at least to figure out their last movements.
Before they disappeared the pilgrims left their luggage at various hospitality centres and then took off without their passports or other ID papers.
According to local media their flight might be connected to an immigration scam. The young Indians might have been enticed by the possibility of getting a permanent visa for New Zealand by paying US$ 11,000 to “agents” back home who probably took advantage of their desire to escape from a whatever situation they were in, which had nothing to do with the Sydney event.
Their disappearance was “most extraordinary and most disappointing,” New Zealand Catholic Church spokesperson Lyndsay Freer said. “As far as I know, nobody in the church had any inkling that anything like this was happening.”
In expressing her regrets for the incident she said she hoped that the isolated act of “a very tiny number” would not cast a shadow on the reasons for the meeting and the joy shown by hundreds of thousands of young people who have come to Sydney to meet the Pope and experience a great moment with their peers from around the world.