The US immigration officials at Abu Dhabi airport in United Arab Emirates allegedly forced 17 Indian students to withdraw their admission applications to two universities in California before deporting them to Hyderabad.
"Strangely, the US authorities offered us no reason for cancelling our visas. In fact, they forced us to sign a document which stated that we were voluntarily giving up our offer of admission from the US varsity," said A Yashwant, a student, The Times of India reported.
The US immigration officials allegedly held back the students from flying to California to join classes at Silicon Valley University (SVU) in San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) in Fremont -- the two universities that were earlier said to be under "scrutiny".
The students alleged that the US Customs and Border Protection officials locked them up for 16 hours and forced them to sign documents pertaining to cancellation of their admission to the two universities and questionnaires.
"I understand that my admissibility is questioned for the above reasons (no reasons cited), which I have read or have been read out to me in the English language. I request that I be permitted to withdraw my application for admission and return abroad. I understand that my voluntary withdrawal of my application for admission is in lieu of a formal determination concerning my admissibility," the document acquired by TOI read.
They were deported to Hyderabad, India, on 22 December.
Another student said that the US immigration officials asked several questions, including details about the air hostess' dress. "I was shocked when one of the officers asked me what the air hostess on the flight that I was travelling by was wearing. He even wanted to know the colour of her dress," the student said on condition of anonymity.
Mohammad Asharaf, another student who secured admission to NPU for Masters in Computer Science, said many questions that the officials asked were not in the printed questionnaires that they were given to read and sign.
"They asked us several questions that were off-the-record. When we asked why the immigration authorities wanted to know such details, they dismissed us outright," Asharaf said.
In the last few days, the US deported several students who secured admission to SVU and NPU. In the wake of several Indian students being deported from the US, Air India on 19 December barred 19 students to board a flight to San Fransisco. All these students got admission to the two above-mentioned universities.
The airline had said that they had received a communication from US Customs and Border Protection Agency on grounds that the two universities do not have accreditation from the US government.
However, the claims were refuted by the US Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as the two universities in question. The US said that the universities are still certified.
The Indian government has asked the US government to "explain the reasons for denial of entry on a large scale to Indian students holding valid visas". In the meantime, the Ministry of External Affairs has asked the students seeking (or those who have got) admission to the two universities in California to defer travel to the United States.