India has lodged a protest with the United States government after several dozen Indian students were detained there in connection with their enrolment in a fake university, following an undercover operation by U.S. agents.
Indian news reports say as many as 129 Indians were among those detained Jan. 30 by U.S. immigration authorities in connection with enrollment at a fake university. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that the university was set up by authorities as part of sting operation to catch people violating the terms of their visas.
The recruiters helped the students to fraudulently obtain immigration documents from the school in a bid to deceive authorities, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. The foreign students, however, had no intention of attending school, it added.
In a statement Jan. 30, ICE said eight people had been charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit.
Though the U.S. government did not disclose nationalities of those involved, the Indian foreign ministry on Saturday said "several Indian students" had been detained. Indian media said more than 100 students had been detained in the United States.
The Indian government had issued a rare "demarche" to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, telling it that Indian officials needed immediate consular access to the detainees.
"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," India's foreign ministry said in a statement.
"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 statement said.
The Indian government also urged the United States to release the students from detention at the earliest, without resorting to deportation against their will.
The United States agency had said that the defendants in the case "intended to help shield and hide" the students from United States immigration authorities for money. They collectively profited in excess of a $250,000, the agency said.
"These suspects aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the United States illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they most certainly were not," Special Agent in charge Steve Francis said this week.
The university in the Detroit area was operated for almost two years by HSI special agents as part of an undercover operation, the statement said.
The eight alleged recruiters assisted foreign citizen students in "fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from the school and facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities," it said.
"All participants in the scheme knew that the school had no instructors or actual classes," the statement said.
China, India and South Korea together sent 56.1 percent of all international students in the United States in 2017-18, an annual survey by the Institute of International Education showed last year.