The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Saturday issued a demarche to the United States Embassy in New Delhi expressing concern over the “dignity and well being” of detained Indian students.
In its diplomatic protest petition the ministry reiterated its demand for “immediate consular access” for Indian officials to the students who have been detained on visa fraud charges following a nationwide crackdown by the Department of Homeland Security across America.
“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.
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,” said the MEA in its demarche.
According to the information made available by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as of Friday, 130 foreign nationals including 129 Indians, have been detained for civil immigration violations. They had enrolled in a fraudulent University of Farmington, set up by Homeland Security to bait illegal immigrants.
Asked about the arrests, Khalid Walls Spokesperson of ICE pointed to paragraph 19 of the indictment that says: “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. Rather, their intent was to fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorisation under the CPT program”.
Officials from the Indian Embassy and consulates in US have visited several detention centres so far and have contacted some 30 Indian students, while closely monitoring the situation and reaching out to Diaspora representatives and student associations to get more information about the detainees.
Meanwhile the US Embassy spokesperson in New Delhi simply said: “We can confirm that the Embassy received a Demarche from the Ministry of External Affairs about the Indian citizens detained in the United States this week. We refer you to the Department of Homeland Security in the United States for information on their status”.
“A 24/7 helpline has been established in our Embassy in Washington D.C. for assistance/queries related to the detention of Indian students. Telephone numbers are +1-202-322-1190 and +1-202-340-2590 and email:email@example.com. For those seeking legal help, guidance and assistance is being provided by our Mission and Consulates,” the MEA announced on Saturday.
The Indian mission is also mobilising community assistance to provide legal support to those who seek as it remains in touch with concerned US stakeholders.