Alarm bells have begun ringing in the Australian establishment after continuing attacks on Indian students in Melbourne with senior ministers rushing to condemn the incidents.
“Australia takes very seriously its reputation as a safe destination for Indian students,” Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said, conceding that Indian students had faced “problems in one particular location in Melbourne”.
Two months ago, the Hindustan Times had reported that as many as 60 attacks had taken place in the last six years where students had been badly assaulted. Many of these cases had gone unreported.
Australian High Commissioner John McCarthy assured HT on Thursday that his country remained a safe destination for Indian students. “The record shows that Australia is a safe destination. My hope is that this is an aberration.”
“We’re appalled by what has happened. We are trying to do our best. The police have taken action and some people have been arrested,” McCarthy maintained.
In Canberra, the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard said in Parliament, “…I want to send a message loud and clear that international students are very welcome in this nation and Australia will not tolerate discrimination against or victimisation of any of our international students.”
Gillard also said the government would invite international student representatives to participate in a round table to discuss issues confronting them.
Given that there have been consistent media reports of Indians facing attack in Melbourne, it has taken some time for the Australian government to respond.
On Wednesday, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said he had been appalled by the by the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne.
“We will also impress upon the Australian authorities that such attacks should not be permitted and that it is their responsibility to ensure the well-being and security of our students studying in Australia,” Krishna added.