‘Attacks, aftermath was double whammy for Indians in Oz’

The AII report `Beyond the Lost Decades` also quoted an unidentified Indian diplomat as saying he had seen reports of "attempted suicides and overstaying of visas by young Indians stranded by the visa changes".

Updated: Jul 19, 2012, 11:32 AM IST

Melbourne: Not only were Indians hit by a series of assaults in Australia in 2009, they also suffered from solutions devised to the problem when visa rules were tightened, plunging many a students` future into uncertainty.

A high level taskforce has observed that thousands of Indian students were affected after the attack crisis that forced the Australian government to announce tighter visa rules, including axing the then popular courses like cookery and hairdressing from its occupational list.

The Australia Indian Institute (AII) report `Beyond the Lost Decades` also quoted an unidentified Indian diplomat as saying he had seen reports of "attempted suicides and overstaying of visas by young Indians stranded by the visa changes".

It pinpointed that `not only were Indians victims of a higher than average rate of assault and robbery on international students in Australia in 2009-10, they also suffered from the solution to the problem`.

"The crisis provoked a wave of inquiries and legislation, which plunged tens of thousands of Indian students into further uncertainty.

"Some provisions were made to help those affected - visa were extended for upto 18 months while students considered their future," it said.

While the grace period later announced by the federal government in 2010 would be expiring this year end, the report suggested many are fearing to be going home without qualifications.

"What will happen come December to the thousands of Indian students and families whose lives and finances have been impacted?," the report has stated.

"Young Indians who overstay their visas and disappear into the community are easy prey for criminal mafias and others who can exploit their vulnerable legal status.

"The report, however, does recommend the federal government to review and extend temporary visas as a `goodwill gesture` in a bid to be given more time to weigh their options," it said.

It has advocated that a more balanced approach was needed with Australia to do more than just persuade Indians that it was a great place to live, work, study and play by even introducing Indian history, culture and economy in nations school curriculum.

Meanwhile, the Indian diaspora has largely welcomed the new report and said several issues in the report are quite easily addressable in short term basis if executed.

Lauding the AII report, Australia India Business Council- Victoria president Ravi Bhatia said: "There are several matters raised in the report that are quite easily addressable in the short term through executive action.

"These are actions that are not only just, fair and humane but also have a hugely positive impact on people. For example, extension or issuance of alternative visa categories for an additional 12 month period from December 31, 2012 would provide relief to thousands of Indian students.

"Extension of post-study work entitlements would be equally well received and beneficial," he said.

Sydney based Community leader and cardiologist, Yadu Singh opined: "the report`s recommendations, which if implemented by both governments, will take Australia India relations to a new height".

Digging deeper into the crisis that almost derailed the relations of two sides, AII report has explained that during the Indian student boom of 2004-09, "the expectation was that a good degree or diploma would lead to a work permit, facilitating migration and citizenship".

While this was idealistic attitude, it was exploited by unscrupulous agents on both sides, it noted.

"Neither the colleges, nor the Indian migration/student enrollment agents (the two are often packaged together in India, especially in smaller cities), primed the students about what to expect in Australia, the do`s and dont`s and who and where to avoid," it said.

"The net result of all this was that certain students were unhappy and for different reasons".

The AII report has identified that besides assaults, there was widespread discontent with the poor standard of education offered by some institutions, in particularly Vocational education training (VET) and English language colleges.

The report said that English language colleges which were the entry point for many international students keen to enrol in degree courses after language training, saw a mass exodus of Indian students whose number fell from 16,162 to 1447 in the three years to 2011.

Michael Knight, appointed by Australian Government to conduct the first strategic review of the student visa programme to help enhance the quality, integrity and competitiveness of the student visa program, has strongly pushed for technical education providers to deliver their services offshore.

AII report said `there is undoubted merit in this suggestion, yet there remains a large Indian market for VET training in Australia.

The report also argues that in the backdrop of Australia`s history, it becomes all the more important for politicians and officials to acknowledge the reality that racism existed in all society, including Australia.

It further lamented that Australian Institute of Criminology had failed to thoroughly investigate the issue of racial motivation in its report released last year on the students crisis.