Language students, who in some cases paid as much as €4,800 to study here, have been left “high and dry” following the sudden closure of an agency offering packages across the country.
A large number of Brazilian students, who arranged to study in Ireland through ‘Time2 Travel’, have been left in limbo after the company ceased operations.
With the travel plans of up to 400 students suspended indefinitely, five students who just arrived are stranded without access to their money, according to Brian Hearne of the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS).
“We are currently looking at all the options available to students,” Mr Hearne said.
The closure of the company also affects a large number of Brazilian students already studying in Ireland who availed of the agency’s visa renewal service, he added.
With offices in both Dublin and Sao Paulo, Time2 Travel offered English language packages in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Dublin, Galway, Donegal, Wicklow, and Kildare.
A number of English language schools have not yet received course fees paid by students through the agency, Mr Hearne added.
These fees typically range from €1,700 to €1,800.
“Another service the agency offered is a currency exchange where students lodge their money to an account to be exchanged into euros but they haven't been given their currency,” Mr Hearne said.
In most cases, students transfer €3,000 of their own currency to be exchanged into euro as this is the amount they are required by immigration to have when they arrive, he added.
As of Friday, more than 100 students had contacted the ICOS for assistance, Mr Hearne said adding that Brazilian media reports up to 1,000 students could be affected.
The ICOS is currently compiling a list of all students affected, prioritizing those currently in Ireland.
“This isn’t an English language school, it's a normal limited company," Mr Hearne said.
"There is some new legislation the Government is bringing in shortly to protect students in the event of an English language school’s closure but there wouldn’t be a provision under the law in this kind of situation.”
On Facebook, Time2 Travel said: “We set up a containment team [in] an attempt to minimize everyone's losses and resume our activities, fulfilling our duties.
"We have already established some schools, responsible for accommodation and partners so that they can assist us in this difficult and awkward time," the statement added.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said it understands that there are "recourses" available under Brazilian law that allow customers to seek recompensation.
Students already based in Ireland are advised by the department to avail of the information and supports provided by ICOS.
Legislation currently before the Dáil seeks to protect students should their course cease prematurely, he added.
Students can contact the ICOS by email on email@example.com