Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Mairéad Farrell TD, has welcomed the result of this week’s circuit court case involving students who were defrauded by the English language sector agency Travel Now.
A total of 18 students paid for its English language course, which did not go ahead as the owner of the agency used the money to set up a restaurant, and failed to return their money in full.
The students were aged between 20 and 30 years old, and each lost sums of money between €1,100 and €3,800.
Teachta Farrell said:
“I am glad these foreign students are getting some semblance of justice but we need to ensure this kind of thing does not happen again.
“This had a terrible impact on these students.
“Their immigration status was thrown in jeopardy and some were even made homeless as a result.
“One woman from Bolivia had to sleep in a church doorway before someone took her in’.
“A Japanese woman said she was so ashamed she didn’t want to tell her parents, who have saved up the money for her.
“The English language teaching industry has come in for strong criticism in the past and these kinds of shoddy practices are doing reputational damage to the state.
“Earlier this year, Newstalk reported on how for many students ‘it’s a trap’ in that they arrive in Ireland only to find that there are no classes available for them. That there’s no accommodation available to them, or where courses are overcrowded to the point where basic health and safety are called into question.
“I had been hoping to raise this issue with Minister Harris, who was due before the Education Committee tomorrow, but unfortunately now he won’t be appearing until January.
“It is time his Department took on the role of regulating this sector.
“A register and licensing system needs to be established which identifies poor behaviour and can exclude bad actors.”