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India gets consular access to 117 students detained in US

New Delhi, Feb 6: The Government of India on Tuesday said that it has obtained consular access to 117 students detained administratively in the United States in the "pay-and-stay" university visa scam.

"Our Embassy and Consulates have obtained consular access to the 117 of them, by proactively visiting 36 different detention sites through the length and breadth of the country," an MEA statement said here.

The Consular access to the remaining students, estimated at about a dozen, are continuing, including through the 24/7 helpline set up by the Embassy and outreach to the community, it said.

The government said that assistance is being extended to the Indian students in obtaining legal advice and connecting them to community support services.

The Ministry said the Government of India has continued to closely monitor and take proactive measures to deal with the detention of Indian students enrolled in a fraudulent university in the U.S.

According to U.S. Government statistics, 129 Indian nationals had been 'administratively arrested' as on January 31 in connection with their enrollment at the ‘university’.

"We remain in touch with the U.S. authorities, both at the federal and local level, to ensure and satisfy ourselves about humane and dignified treatment of the Indian students and custom-sensitive dietary and living arrangement for them during the period of their detention," the statement said.

The Government continues to attach high priority to the well-being of the detained students and will remain constantly engaged with the US authorities and other stakeholders, to address the issue, it said.

In a rare but proactive stance, Indian government on Saturday, February 2, issued a 'demarche' to the US Embassy here on the 'detention' of Indian students in the "pay-and-stay" university visa scam.

The government of India also sought immediate consular access to them, an MEA statement has said.

"A demarche was made to the Embassy of the United States in New Delhi by the Ministry of External Affairs. Our concern over the dignity and well-being of the detained students and the need for immediate consular access for Indian officials to the detainees was reiterated".

The government also insisted that "....students, who may have been duped into enrolling in the ‘University’ should be treated differently from those recruiters who have duped them".

The MEA had 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 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, reports have said. (UNI)