Hyderabad: Indian students, most of them from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, facing visa fraud charges in the US have started returning home.

They were among about 600 Indian students who had enrolled themselves with a fake University of Farmington, Michigan, floated by the US authorities to expose the racket of illegal immigration to the US.

While 130 students, all but one belonging to the two Telugu states, were detained by the authorities on the charges of knowingly enrolling themselves in a fake university to illegally stay and work in the US, were facing the legal proceedings, other students have started returning home.

About 50 such students belonging to Vijayawada and Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh and Warangal in Telangana have arrived at the Hyderabad airport over the weekend and some more were expected to reach.

Indian embassy officials as well as organisations working for the welfare of various Indian groups in the US were trying to extend the legal assistance to the detained students.

It was on the advise of the legal consultants that the other students who were not detained have started returning home before things turn more difficult for them.

In a joint operation Homeland Security Investigations and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities had floated an online fake University to expose the fraud in the name of enrolment in universities. The authorities have also arrested 8 people from the two Telugu states as the brain behind the scam in addition to the 130 students.

While the Indian government has strong protested over the operation, issued a démarche and demanded the immediate release of the detained students, the State Department officials in the US have insisted that the students enrolling in a fake university were aware that they were committing a crime. It has come to be known as “pay and stay scam” as the students had allegedly used the fake university to stay and work in America.

TRS US, an overseas organisation affiliated to Telangana’s ruling party TRS was among the organisations trying to help the students in trouble. One of its office bearers Naveen Jalagam said the efforts were being made to ensure safe return of all the students including those in detention. “Everybody involved in these efforts is advising the students to return home at the earliest in view of the concerns of their families as well as potential more legal troubles for them”, he said.

N Mohan, a founder of Team Aid said that there was no clear picture of how many students had returned so far. “There number could be around 200 as many of them were returning quietly without informing anybody”, he said.

Returning students were not willing to talk to media in view of their present situation. One of the students said on the condition of anonymity, “I have lost everything, the money I paid and the job I had there. I cannot even try to go back to the US for at least three years”, he said before leaving Hyderabad for his hometown.

The activists who were trying to help the detained students denied the rumours that they were being tortured in detention centres.