A total of 403 Indian students have died abroad since 2018, with the highest 91 fatalities being in Canada, the Union government said on Thursday.

The deaths occurred due to various reasons, including natural causes, accidents and medical conditions, V Muraleedharan, the minister of state for external affairs, informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

The minister’s statement came in response to a question posed by Trinamool Congress MP Mausam Benazir Noor, who asked the Centre to furnish data on the country-wise distribution of Indian students studying in higher education institutes who have died abroad from 2018 onwards and the reasons for the deaths. She also asked if the Indian government has implemented any measures to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian students studying abroad.

In response, Muraleedharan presented data which showed that among 34 countries, Canada accounts for the highest number of fatalities of Indian students abroad, followed by the United Kingdom, which has seen 48 student deaths in the last six years. During the same period, 40 students died in Russia, 36 in the United States, 35 in Australia, 21 in Ukraine, 20 in Germany, 14 in Cyprus and 10 each in Italy and the Philippines.

The safety and security of Indian students abroad is one of the foremost priorities for the government, the minister said.

“Heads of mission/post and senior officials visit universities and educational institutions for regular interactions with Indian students and student associations,” said Muraleedharan. “Our missions and posts remain vigilant and closely monitor the well-being of students. In case there is any untoward incident, it is immediately taken up with the concerned authorities of the host country to ensure that the incident is properly investigated and the perpetrators are punished.”

He said that distressed Indian students are provided with all possible consular assistance, including emergency medical care and accommodation.

When asked about the high student deaths in Canada on Thursday, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the number of students travelling to the country is higher than to others.

“Canada does happen to numerically be the highest but I would urge that they be looked at in relation to the total number of Indian students in that country,” Bagchi said at a media briefing. “Plus, we would need to see whether these are caused by violence, car accidents, we do not know. So, I do not know if this is an issue that merits taking up with the government.”