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India today (Saturday, Feb 2) issued a demarche to the US Embassy in New Delhi expressing concern over detention of Indian students in an immigration scam and sought consular access to them.

The US Embassy reportedly confirmed this, saying: “We can confirm that the embassy received a demarche from the ministry of external affairs about the Indian citizens detained in the Unites States this week.”

One-hundred-thirty foreign students arrested by US authorities for enrolling at a fake university – allegedly to remain in that country – are largely Indians. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made the arrests on Wednesday.

Out of the 130 foreign students arrested by US authorities till Thursday for enrolling at a fake university allegedly to stay in that country, 129 were Indian nationals, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials were quoted as saying by The India Express.

The external affairs ministry said India continues to closely monitor and take proactive measures to address the situation arising out of the detention of several Indian students in connection with their enrolment in a “fraudulent university in the US”.

The external affairs ministry underlined to the US Embassy that students, who may have been duped into enrolling in the ‘university’, should be treated differently from those recruiters who have duped them.

“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,” the ministry said.

The India mission and consulates have visited several detention centres throughout the US to extend consular assistance to the detained students, the MEA said.

“So far, about 30 Indian students have been contacted by our consular officers. Efforts to contact the remaining Indian students are continuing,” it said.

The ministry said the Indian government and the Indian Embassy and consulates in the US attach the highest priority to the welfare of the detained students and will continue to work with the American authorities and other stakeholders to address the issue.

According to reports, 129 Indian student along with 8 other individuals were arrested after the US Department of Homeland Security busted an immigration fraud by setting up a fake university in Farmington Hills, Michigan state of US.

Court documents accessed by news channel WION reportedly mention that each of the foreign citizens who “enrolled” and made “tuition” payments to the University knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits, or make academic progress toward an actual degree in a particular field of study – a “pay to stay” scheme”, clearly suggesting they are also considered culpable by US authorities.

Eight Indians who were allegedly involved in the scam now have been placed in “removal proceedings” and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told WION that it will “seek to maintain them in its custody pending the outcome of those proceedings.”

India’s external affairs ministry said a 24/7 helpline has been established in the Indian Embassy in Washington for assistance/queries related to the detention of Indian students.

The helpline numbers are: +1-202-322-1190 and +1-202-340-2590 and email is: cons3.washington@mea.gov.in.

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