Nineteen Indian college students were not allowed to board flights on Air India that were headed toward San Francisco last weekend after they were informed by authorities that the American schools they were set to attend were under “scrutiny” without offering any reasons.
Officials at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport said the students were prevented from flying because of past problems with students from the colleges in question.
“In the past, we have witnessed that students who secured admission in those institutions have been deported to India as soon as they land there,” an Air India official told Huffington Post India.
“To avoid embarrassment to them and save their money, we prevented them from boarding the flight.”
The airline also noted that the US Customs and Border Protection Agency told officials on the day of the flight that the students were not allowed to enter the country and would be deported back to India as soon as the plane landed.
All 19 students were offered refunds on their flights by the airline, writes Jason Silverstein for The Daily News. Air India also put out a note to its travel agents that anyone traveling on a student visa to either of the two California schools should not be sold a ticket.
However, questions remain from the students concerning why they would have been granted visas at all if they were not allowed to enter the country.
“We were treated like criminals and sent back,” one student, who did not give a name, told the Times of India.
The two schools in question, Silicon Valley University in San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic in Fremont, denied being under any sort of government watch, saying that they were told by US Customs and Border Protection that they have not been blacklisted by the government or any of its agencies. The two schools maintain that the students were not allowed to board the plane due to individual issues with customs.
Silicon Valley associate dean Simon Au said the students did not answer questions correctly and were held back, adding that he emailed the students over the weekend informing them that they could now re-enter the country.
Meanwhile, Fremont posted a warning to international students who may be traveling on Air India to hold off on any travel plans until the issues are cleared up.
This is the latest incident of international students facing travel troubles to the US. Last week, 14 Indian students headed for the same two universities were deported after being held and questioned by the FBI for almost 15 hours in San Francisco. A separate group of students said they had been held for three days in the US, after which they were deported, writes Sonam Joshi for Mashable.
India’s External Affairs ministry said that it plans to discuss the matter with the US government with the hopes of coming to a solution soon. Around 1.3 million students traveled to the United States to attend college in 2014-15.