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Indian students arrested in immigration scam: India sends demarche to US

File photo. Photograph:( ANI )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 02, 2019, 03.17 PM (IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has sent a demarche to the United States embassy in New Delhi in connection with the immigration scam busted by US authorities. that according to US immigration authorities tried to exploit the US student visa system.

Some 129 Indian students and eight other individuals were arrested after the US Department of Homeland Security conducted a sting operation to bust the scam that had included the setting up of a fake university in Farmington Hills, Michigan, US. 

According to court documents accessed by WION, the students were allegedly using a "pay to stay" scheme — and were aware that they would not have to attend class but still be able to maintain their student visa status. 

In the demarche, India called for the "need for immediate consular access for Indian officials to the detainees" and underlined that the students, "who may have been duped into enrolling in the ‘University’ should be treated differently from those recruiters who have duped them." 

So far, about 30 Indian students have been contacted by Indian consular officers.

Meanwhile, the US embassy spokesperson has confirmed that it received a Demarche from the Ministry of External Affairs.

Speaking to WION, Deputy Consul General of the Indian consulate in Houston Surendra Adhana said, "Each consulate in the USA is getting consular access to students detained in their jurisdiction. We got these two. There will be a third one in San Antonio (on Saturday) despite it being a holiday"

Officials from the Indian consulate in Houston have met the detained students at the Montgomery Processing Centre and Prairieland Detention Centre in Texas.

New Delhi has asked the US to share all details of the students and asked them to "release them from detention at the earliest and not to resort to deportation against their will."

All the arrested Indian students have been put on "removal proceedings". The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told WION that it will "seek to maintain them in its custody pending the outcome of those proceedings." 

This comes even as the Indian mission in Washington has established a 24/7 helpline -- +1-202-322-1190 and +1-202-340-2590 and an email: cons3.washington@mea.gov.in  for assistance related to the detention of Indian students.

India has said that its Embassy and Consulates in the United States attach "the highest priority to the welfare of the detained students" and "will continue to work with the US authorities and other stakeholders to address the issue."

Story highlights

The students were allegedly using a 'pay to stay' scheme — and were aware that they would not have to attend class but still be able to maintain their student visa status. They were busted after the Department of Homeland Security set up a fake university in Farmington Hills, Michigan.