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'Indian vocational students in Australia face most problems'

delhi Updated: Jan 07, 2010 19:21 IST

IANS
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Indian students in Australia who live in university campuses do not face many problems, but those who go to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) centres in that country do and are sometimes exploited, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said on Thursday.

"There is not much of a problem with (Indian) students who live in university campuses (in Australia)," Ravi said at a press conference here in the wake of the killing of two Indian youths in the state of Victoria over the last week.

"The problem mainly comes with those students who go to VET centres," he added.

Under the VET system in Australia, students from abroad can join these centres as apprentices or trainees in various vocational courses approved by the authorities there. There is a legal contract between the employer and the apprentice and the apprentice is paid a wage.

But according to the minister, in many such cases, the apprentices end up getting exploited.

"The Australian government itself has been forced to close many of these VET centres," Ravi said.

He added: "In many of these centres, there is only a board and a room. They only issue visas. The offer is that they (the apprentices) can work 20 hours a week and they can earn A$15 an hour, which is good money."

But, Ravi said, the apprentices get exploited.

"The employers pay them only A$5 an hour. That is big exploitation."

The minister said that India expected the labour ministry of Australia to intervene and ensure that Indians are not exploited.

Ravi said that the number of students going from India to Australia had gone up significantly in the last five years because most of these students join VET centres.

"Five years ago, the number of Indian students in Australia was around 19,000. Last year, it was one lakh (100,000)," he pointed out.

But he added that the number would go down now as many VET centres were being closed.

"The number of visas issued for such centres is coming down. And parents too (in India) are not in favour of such institutions," he added.

Stating that India remained seriously concerned about the situation in Australia, Ravi said: "I received a letter from the acting prime minister of Victoria (Julia Gillard) yesterday (Wednesday). She expressed her sadness over the killing of the Indians. She told me about the steps that have been taken to prevent such incidents - like increase in police patrolling - and more steps that will be taken."

The acting prime minister, he said, said that there is zero tolerance for racial attack in that country.

"But we remain extremely concerned over this and hope that they will take further action on this," Ravi stated.