While not denying an increase in the attacks on Indians in Australia, the Australian High Commissioner to India, Peter Varghese, urged moderation in media reporting and said Canberra was doing all it could to provide security and safety to Indian students whose number has crossed a five figure mark.
“The government will do what it can. We believe we are doing that to the best of our ability. We are also implementing additional measures,” said Mr. Varghese. He denied Canberra terming an advisory issued by the Ministry of External Affairs to Indian students late on Tuesday “hysterical’ and pointed out that countries, including Australia, issued advisories all the time.
The Australian High Commissioner maintained that most attacks on Indians were opportunistic in nature and that a very small minority had a racist tinge to them. He wanted students going to Australia to tie-up financial requirement — about $(Aus) 18,000 per year — before leaving Indian shores, as it was impossible to work in Australia and pay for studies and the upkeep.
The Australian Mission is also taking action here to sift economic refugees in the garb of students from those genuinely wanting to pursue academic courses. As a result of special checks, the rate of visa rejection in India has gone up due to detection of large-scale fraud in documentation.
Mr. Varghese admitted that the attacks were on the rise, but not to the extent as highlighted by the media. “It is the case [rise in number of attacks]. But the number of Indian students has also tripled over the past three to four years. I am not denying that the attacks have not increased, but I want to point out that in response to a Parliament Question, the Indian government had recorded 105 incidents of people of Indian origin having been assaulted in Australia out of a total population of well over one lakh. This is much less than the thousands attacked or five attacks per day reported in some media reports,” he observed.
On the whole, he described media reporting here as mixed. While some presented balanced reports, others exaggerated and conveyed a misleading impression of what is happening on ground.
Mr. Varghese said it was not his mandate to improve housing facilities for migrants, a factor cited as a magnet for criminals targeting Indians walking back home late at night in outlying and crime prone areas. However, apart from stringent document checking some Australian State governments are checking whether private vocational colleges are meeting the criteria and those falling short of the benchmark are being shut down.
The Australian envoy also repeated that to focus only on studies in Australia, a student must be prepared to have a minimum amount of $(Aus) 18,000 per year. The shortfall can be met by 20 hours of legal work every week.