Wednesday 22 March 2017

'They are robbers. They stole my money. I want my €2,300 back...but I don't know what I can do'

Students vent anger as college shuts down

Fiona Ellis

ANGRY students from around the globe gathered outside the locked doors of a language school yesterday, demanding to know why it had suddenly closed.

Many of the 300 vulnerable young pupils paid thousands in fees to Abbey College just weeks ago, and in some cases, just days ago.

Thousands of miles from home, they have been left high and dry after being told by text that Abbey College on Dublin's Dame Street has shut down.

And they now fear they may be left homeless as the host families they were staying with have not been paid.

Alexander Serrano (25) from Venezuela paid €2,300 for a year-long English language course in May.

"They are robbers. They stole my money. I want my money back but I don't know what I can do."

As the Departments of Justice and Education moved to assure students that they did not lose their immigration status as a result of the closure, students Natalie Soares (23) and Leandro Lessa (28) from Brazil said they were very worried about the situation.

Mr Lessa paid €1,000 three weeks ago and Ms Soares paid €1,400 last week.

"I'm so worried and don't know what to do. I saved to come here. I just want my money back. I'm angry and afraid. I have just one week to renew my visa," Ms Soares said.

Italian Stefano Congiu paid €500 10 days ago for a one-month English language course.

He received just three lessons before being notified by text that the school had closed.

"I'm angry. I think it is not possible to get my money back."

Maribeth Sanico from the Philippines started her pre-nursing course last week. She paid €2,000 for the year-long course up front.

"It is so unfair that they won't give me my money. €2,000 is not a joke. If I have to go to another college I cannot afford to pay again for another year.

"I don't believe that they did not know what was happening."

It is not just the students who are left out of pocket.

Teachers at the school received a text telling them their P45s were available for collection from a courier company. Along with their documents was a letter from the director which said the company was "not in a position to pay any outstanding wages", and recommended they apply to the social insurance fund.

Colm Hall taught with the school for seven years. "I'm owed about five weeks' pay and two weeks of holiday pay," he said. He had "no faith" that students would get their money back or he would get paid.

Families hosting the students were also not paid.

Host mother Carmel Gerhardt said it was the young students who would suffer the most and called on the Government to intervene.

"The disgrace is that they kept on taking the money right up until last week."

Students affected by the closure have been advised that they should report to the Garda National Immigration Bureau, with relevant documents.

Irish Independent

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