An Australian Senate Committee formed to investigate a series of violent attacks on Indian students this year has ruled out racism as the prime motive -- but Indian student groups say the authorities are in denial.
"There was very little evidence that the assaults were based on racism or discrimination," committee chairman and Liberal Party senator Gary Humphries has told The Australian newspaper.
In fact, the term 'racism' figures only twice in the 150-page report submitted to the Senate on Thursday.
"The committee acknowledges that with a lack of understanding regarding personal safety, the circumstances in which international students often find themselves may give rise to fears of racism and they may interpret a negative experience as motivated by racism even though no such motive exists," an extract from the report reads.
The committee has recommended that overseas students should be given more information on personal safety before they arrive in Australia. The universities and colleges should be responsible for imparting this information.
The much-awaited Senate Committee report has come under immediate criticism for not addressing the thorny issue of 'racism'.
"They are still in denial of the major issue," Federation of Indian Students of Australia president Amit Menghani was quoted as saying by The Australian newspaper on Friday.
The violent attacks on Indian students studying Down Under were widely reported in the Indian media leading to what was perceived as a low-mark in India-Australia relations. Over 30 such attacks have been reported since early May.
A series of visits by high-ranked Australian politicians and officials followed the Indian media's spotlight on the attacks, which also led to protests by mostly Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney.
The Senate report, chaired by Liberal Senator Gary Humphries, has made a number of recommendations to reform the beleaguered Australian overseas education sector.
Australia's education exports have rocketed in the past few years but the sector is reportedly marred by lack of regulation of the education institutes and recruitment agents.
"Long term regulatory reform and sustained growth of the industry can only be achieved by state and federal governments working together," the Senate committee chairman told The Australian.
The capital cities of Victoria and New South Wales (Melbourne and Sydney respectively)are the two major destinations for overseas students. These two most populous Australian cities are also reporting the maximum number of irregularities as far as overseas students are concerned.
"Victoria is taking extraordinary actions to weed out incompetent providers and protect students, and has set a regulation benchmark for the rest of the nation," Humphries told the newspaper.
The Senate Committee has criticised the state governments of Victoria and New South Wales for not providing public transport concessions to overseas students. This has been a long standing demand of groups representing Indian and other overseas students. Lack of public transport concessions has also been partly blamed as a reason for attacks on Indian students as they prefer to walk home to save fares.
The report has also discussed a number of issues revolving about the enrolment of students from India and a number of recommendations have been made to regulate the education agents based in countries like India.
Besides other recommendations for overseas countries, the Senate report has recommended further expansion of the eVisa system (online visa applications lodged by authorised persons).
Before the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's (DIAC) 'crackdown' on Indian students and their representatives for alleged scams, the subcontinent was the largest source of students for Australian institutes.