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Indian mission in US opens 24X7 helpline for students held in ‘pay and stay’ scam
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Indian mission in US opens 24X7 helpline for students held in ‘pay and stay’ scam

Agency News

New Delhi/Washington, Feb 2 : The Indian embassy in the US has opened a 24/7 hotline to assist 129 Indian students arrested by the American authorities in the "pay-and-stay" university visa scam, official sources said.

As many as 129 Indians are among the 130 foreign students arrested for enrolling at a fake university allegedly to remain in the US.

According to media reports, at least 600 foreign students, many of them Indians, were detained this week by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after enrolling in Farmington University, a pay-to-stay scheme run to 'lure" in foreigners seeking to live and work in the United States.

The university in Detroit's Farmington Hills was part of an undercover operation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designed to expose 'immigration fraud', according to federal prosecutors who announced charges in the case.

The Helpline numbers 202-322-1190 and 202-340-2590 would be manned by senior embassy officials round the clock, sources said.

For assistance and queries related to the detention of Indian students by the US authorities, Embassy announcement said that the affected students, their friends and family members may also contact the embassy at cons3.washington@mea.gov.in.

The Indian embassy has appointed a nodal officer to handle and coordinate all issues related to helping Indian students.

The ICE officials said 129 of them are Indian nationals. The fake university was opened by Homeland Security Investigations to trap those involved in illegal student visa racket.

According to the ICE, in 2017, as many as 249,763 Indian students were enrolled in the various American universities.

Students from China topped the list with 481,106 in 2017.

MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar has said on Friday that: "As soon as we received the information regarding their detention, our Mission contacted the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security requesting for a list of the detained students … We have placed a formal request for consular access, emphasizing that the request may be taken as very high priority".

"The Government of India, together with our Mission in Washington and our Consulates in the United States are according the highest priority to the situation arising out of the detention of Indian students in the US," the spokesman said.

He said the government of India has "highlighted" that a distinction should be made between those involved in recruiting or enrolling students and students who have been duped or defrauded in the process.

In Hyderabad, TRS working president K T Rama Rao on Friday met US Consul General Katherine B Hadda and discussed the issue.

During the discussions, Rao, son of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, raised the issue of hundreds of Indian students, including those from Telangana, facing deportation in the wake of the "pay to stay" visa racket busted by US authorities.

"Always a privilege to catch up with our good friend. We discussed the many areas of US-Telangana cooperation, current and future," Ms Hadda tweeted about about her meeting with Rama Rao. (UNI)