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Travel agent Brijesh Mishra to remain in Canada federal custody till trial

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Indian immigration agent Brijesh Mishra, currently incarcerated in a Canada in relation to allegedly using forged documents to secure admission for several students from Punjab to Canadian institutions, will remain in Federal custody till his trial begins in February next year.

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According to a letter from the Canada Border Services Agency or CBSA to some former students, he has “consented to detention” in a holding facility in Vancouver. “The next date is for arraignment on February 9, 2024. This is when Mr Mishra must enter a plea (guilty or not guilty),” the letter, seen by the Hindustan Times, said.

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Mishra, who was detained in June, faces five charges including those for counselling misrepresentation, misrepresentation and unauthorised representation or advice for consideration. He has, so far, been denied bail.

He has made one appearance in court till date, in an admissibility hearing related to one of the impacted students, Karamjit Kaur, on November 1. He appeared via a video link before an immigration tribunal in Toronto and denied the charges leveled against him.

Kaur’s lawyer Sumit Sen believes Mishra will continue to profess his innocence. He felt Mishra will “flatly deny all charges during his arraignment.”

“Brijesh Mishra denied any involvement in the organized criminal activity despite the fact that there are over 285 active cases which the CBSA has unearthed during their investigation,” Sen added.

Earlier this year, several ex-students from India, mainly Punjab, faced deportation from Canada as the documents they had used to enter the country were found to be forged. These students arrived in Canada between 2017 and 2019, and in rare instances, in 2020. They started receiving notices from the CBSA in 2021 and last year, for a hearing as the agency concluded the letter of offer of admission to a Canadian higher education institution, which formed the basis of their study permits, was “fake.” Agents in India used fraudulent documentation to procure study permits for them and they started receiving notices from immigration authorities late last year once these were detected. The majority of the affected students were represented by Mishra, then with the Jalandhar-based counselling firm EMSA Education and Migration Services Australia, but others were also involved.

However, they were given a reprieve in June as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or IRCC announced a task force to examine each case on its merits and allow ex-students who had completed their courses in Canada and considered genuine to remain in the country.

Some of these “genuine” students have started receiving work permits from IRCC. Among them is Ravinderpreet Singh, from Tarn Taran in Punjab, who was one of Mishra’s clients. “This is a relief for us and also for our parents. We have been struggling and protesting since last summer,” he said.

He counselled prospective students from India to learn from their suffering and crosscheck all documentation submitted with their applications so “they don’t have to endure what we did.”

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