India on Saturday issued a demarche to the United States embassy in New Delhi raising concerns over the arrest of 129 Indian students in the US for alleged immigration fraud and sought immediate consular access to them.
The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said India was closely monitoring and taking measures to address the situation. “We underlined that students, who may have been duped into enrolling in the ‘University’ should be treated differently from those recruiters who have duped them,” the statement said. “We have urged the US side to share full details and regular updates of the students with the government, to release them from detention at the earliest and not to resort to deportation against their will.”
On Thursday, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it had arrested 130 students, 129 of whom are Indians, in a “pay-and-stay” scam. The scam involves foreign nationals who purportedly enrol in fake institutions to falsely maintain their student visa status to allow them to continue to stay in the US. Undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security had set up a fake university to crack down on the scam.
The External Affairs Ministry said the Indian mission in the US and consulate officials have contacted around 30 students and efforts are under way to contact the remaining.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the US Embassy in Delhi confirmed that they had received a demarche from the Ministry of External Affairs regarding the arrests of the students.
On Friday, the Indian Embassy in the US set up a a 24/7 hotline to help the detained Indian students. The telephone numbers are +1-202-322-1190 and +1-202-340-2590 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org.