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Police charge education recruiting agency’s director for alleged misuse of overseas students’ funds

Thirty per cent of international students and backpackers earn $12 an hour or less, researchers say. (AAP)

Jorge Armando Becerra, director of Quack Study, was arrested for alleged fraud in the business of recruiting international students coming to Australia.

Last Thursday NSW Police arrested the head of the company, Jorge Armando Becerra, and charged him with a number of fraud related offences, stemming from the Quack Study Investigation. Mr Becerra will attend the first court hearing on 7th August and has been refused bail.

NSW Police has been investigating the education services agency Quack Study, after a group of international students from Colombia and Peru filed a report against the company. They accuse Quack Study of mismanaging their health insurance payments with Bupa and the enrolment fees at Australian education providers.

Recent moves by Australian parliamentarians to look into the effectiveness of the current legislation regulating immigration and education agents, have prompted international students to raise their concerns.

While the international education sector injected more than 32.2 billion dollars into the Australian economy in 2017,  the key role education agents play in the industry is still a grey area because they aren't regulated.

According to the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, also known as ESOS 2000, an education agent is a person or organisation within or outside Australia that recruits foreign students and refers them to education providers. By doing so, the education agent can provide education advice to foreign students, as well as marketing and promotion services to education providers.

In Australia there isn’t a specific framework to regulate education agents. The regulation says that education providers, including English schools and universities, bear responsibility for ensuring their education agents they work with act in an ethical, honest and in the best interest of foreign students.

The legislation says that a registered provider must not accept students from an education agent or enter into an agreement with an education agent if they know or reasonably suspect that the education agent provide immigration advice when not authorised by the Migration Act of 1958 to do it.

Questions have been raised as to whether some agents should be registered  on the Migration Agents Registration Authority Office (OMARA)’s online register..

Only registered migration agents are allowed to provide “immigration assistance” 

The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act is a framework that protects the rights of international students studying in Australia. However, the kind of help and support that a student agent can provide to its clients regarding the visa is unclear in Australia’s official websites. 

The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) manages “Study in Australia”, Australia’s official website that provides information to overseas students.

Whereas Austrade’s website “Study in Australia” says that education agents “can tell you about your options for studying and living in Australia and assist with your visa and institution applications”, the Australian Migration Act 1958 says that education agents are not authorised to provide migration advice to overseas students.

SBS Spanish has been investigating Quack Study case for months and due to recent developments and legal reasons is unable to publish the investigation until the court case is finished.

Stay tuned to SBS Spanish for the whole coverage of Quack Study court case in Sydney.



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