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US varsity probe: 'Students won't be victimised'

August 12, 2011 03:16 IST

About 70 Indian students at the University of Northern Virginia, which was raided last month by agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement—the investigative arm of the department of homeland security—met with Ambassador Arun Kumar Singh, Charge d'Affaires at the Indian embassy in Washington D C, who assured them that the government of India and the embassy will "continue with their efforts to try and ensure that the students at UNVA are not victimised in any way."

Diplomatic sources told that it had been "clearly explained to the students that what they (the embassy) had been told by US authorities was that the investigation, as of now, is against the university and not the students."

Also, the visa status of the students "would be maintained," and they had the option "if they wanted to, to transfer to other universities."

The sources said that US authorities had also informed the embassy "that the university was not being immediately shut down but has been given notice to explain," and that this message had been clearly conveyed to the students who met with Singh.

Over 90 percent of the student population at UNVA is from India, mainly from Andhra Pradesh. Officials told that if UNVA cannot provide a satisfactory explanation as to why it issued some 2,500 I-20's (certificate of eligibility for foreign students to apply for a US student visa) when it was approved for only 50, and also explain several other discrepancies in its admission and attendance policies, it would suffer the same fate as that of Tri Valley University in California, and be shut down.

If UNVA, like TVU is shut down, it would leave the Indian students in limbo and face deportation, if they fail to transfer to other accredited universities, and lose their student status or F-1 visa.

The sources said that students who met Singh were particularly concerned over their fate since many had put in 2 to 3 years. They wondered what would happen if they could transfer to another university. Even if they were successful in transferring, many inquired if other universities would accept UNVA's credit hours.

Source said that unlike in the case of TVU, where several students were arrested, and radio-tagged, much to their humiliation, no student has been arrested or detained.

The sources acknowledged that some of the students had expressed concern that some of their fellow students were being investigated. According to sources, the embassy continued to strongly maintain that any lacuna in the system was due to a failure in the US system.

They said the embassy has also set up an e-mail address where students could e-mail their concerns and suggestions. They have already received several hundred e-mails, with comments and suggestions. "We will consolidate all of it and then talk with the US authorities," the source said.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington