India said Tuesday it has obtained consular access to 117 of the 129 Indian students detained in the US for enrolling in a fake university, and legal assistance was being extended to them.
The Indian government has continued to closely monitor and take proactive measures to deal with the detention of the Indian students, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
The ministry’s statement came after the US State Department said all the 130 detained foreign students, including 129 Indians, were aware that they were committing a crime to fraudulently remain in the United States.
India had earlier issued a demarche to the American embassy in New Delhi on Saturday, expressing its concern over the detention of Indian students and sought immediate consular access to them. The foreign students were arrested last week by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for enrolling at the University of Farmington, allegedly to remain in America.
The fake university was set up by the DHS’s investigating unit in the Greater Detroit area to bust the “pay-and-stay” racket. Eight individuals — either Indian citizens or Indian-Americans — have been arrested for running the racket. They have pleaded “not guilty” before a federal court in Michigan.
The MEA said it visited 36 detention sites to obtain consular access to the detained Indians. “As on date, our embassy and consulates have obtained consular access to 117 of them, by proactively visiting 36 different detention sites through the length and breadth of the country,” the MEA said.
Efforts for consular access to the remaining 12 are continuing, including through the 24/7 helpline set up by the Indian embassy and outreach to the community, it said. Assistance is being extended to the Indian students in obtaining legal advice and connecting them to community support services, the MEA said.
“We remain in touch with the US authorities, both at the federal and local level, to ensure and satisfy ourselves about the 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. It said the government continues to attach high priority to the well-being of the detained students and will remain constantly engaged with US authorities and other stakeholders.