NEW DELHI • India said it has lodged a protest with the United States government after several Indian students were detained there in connection with their enrolment in a fake university, following an undercover operation by US agents.
The US authorities last week said eight individuals who exploited the country's student visa system had been indicted.
They had helped foreign nationals remain illegally in the US by enrolling them into a metro Detroit private university, which was actually being operated by US agents themselves.
The recruiters helped the students to fraudulently obtain immigration documents from the school in a bid to deceive the authorities, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. The foreign students, however, had no intention of attending school, it added.
Though the US 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 US. The Indian government on Saturday issued a rare "demarche" to the US 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," it said in a statement.
The Indian government also urged the US to release the students from detention at the earliest, without resorting to deportation against their will.
The American agency had said that the defendants in the case "intended to help shield and hide" the students from US immigration authorities for money. They collectively profited in excess of a US$250,000 (S$338,000), it said.
"These suspects aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the US illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they most certainly were not," special agent in charge Steve Francis said last week.
China, India and South Korea together sent 56.1 per cent of all international students in the US in 2017-18, an annual survey by the Institute of International Education showed last year.