Safety plan for foreign students

As violence against international students continues and Australia faces increasingly strident criticism from India, Universities Australia—the vice-chancellors’ organisation—has released a ‘10-point action plan” for student safety.

Among the recommendations, the plan calls for strong law enforcement and ‘necessary complementary actions”.

It urges increased levels of security with greater visibility of police and security officers in locations where international students study, work, travel and live. Suitable complaints bodies should be established to respond to concerns over inaction, the UA says.

In recent weeks dozens of Indian students have been attacked, robbed and, in several instances, stabbed or bashed.

Groups of Indians have been gathering each night at some Melbourne stations used by foreign students to provide security because they claimed students were not being protected by police.

But the police warned they faced fines if they did not disperse.

Indian students in Melbourne have written to their prime minister, Manmohan Singh, asking him to ‘rescue us” from racist attacks.

The letter was sent by Thiruvallam Bhasi, editor of the Indian Student Magazine Australia, and called on Singh to intervene with the Australian government. ‘We humbly appeal to you to send a delegation of ministers and senior officials to assess the situation here so that appropriate rectification measures can be undertaken,” the letter said.

But Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna urged the students to remain calm, saying he would like them ‘to be patient”.

At a meeting in Canberra late last week university leaders met members of the diplomatic community, including Indian high commissioner Sujatha Singh, as well as federal government officials.

The meeting condemned the attacks on international students attending universities and vocational education institutions.

UA chief executive Dr Glenn Withers said universities believed the situation was now so serious it required a national response and close cooperation between education providers, the federal government, state authorities, foreign governments and their diplomatic representatives and other partners.

With widespread international media reporting the racist attacks against Asian students and angry protests across India, Australia’s reputation as a safe haven in a violent world is taking a battering.

News reports of private colleges defrauding students or charging them large sums to provide them with credentials so they can obtain permanent residency visas have contributed to growing government alarm at the threat to the education industry.

‘To implement this plan, the university sector is ready to be involved in working with national and stateterritory authorities and other stakeholders, such as other education providers, community representatives and those who employ student workers,” Withers said.

The plan calls on the government to work with diplomatic missions to streamline existing reporting processes for missions regarding student safety.

An integrated communication system should be developed to advise and support students about living and studying in Australia when they receive their visas.

The Victorian government announced that mounted police, dog squads and helicopter patrols would be used to crack down on crime, including attacks on students.

The operation includes uniformed police, transit police, the dog squad, the mounted branch and helicopter patrols in and around train stations. —University World News

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