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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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Antigua and Barbuda’s director of education said his ministry is closely watching moves by the United States to deport Caribbean students whose classes are delivered online.

The comments from Clare Browne were made in light of US President Donald Trump’s declaration on Monday that international students who were issued visas to attend colleges and universities in the US will not be allowed to stay in the country if their classes shift to online delivery during the fall semester.

Trump said international students currently in the United States would have to leave the country or transfer to a school with some in-person learning.

“It is always a concern for the Ministry of Education when Antiguan students studying overseas are impacted, whatever the cause,” Browne told Observer yesterday.

He added that the welfare and wellbeing of Antiguan and Barbudan students at home or abroad are of high concern to the government.

 “That said, at this juncture, we are not fully aware of the numbers affected by the decision to which you refer, however, we will continue to give some attention to this,” he said.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement also announced the changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program for non-immigrant students on F-1 and M-1 visas for academic and vocational coursework, after US universities made the decision to transition to online courses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump said the State Department will not issue visas to students in online-only programmes and Customs and Border Protection will not allow these students to enter the country.

The move may affect thousands of foreign students who attend US universities or participate in training programmes, as well as non-academic or vocational studies.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington DC, about 1.2 million students who fall under the affected visas were enrolled and registered at more than 8,700 schools nationwide as of March 2018.

It is not clear how many Antiguan and Barbudan students are affected by the latest move.

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