Australia Issues Report on Crimes Against Foreign Students

August 12th, 2011 - 4:07 pm ICT by admin  

By Imtiaz Muqbil

Responding to a swathe of media reports in 2009-10 about allegedly racially-motivated attacks on Indian students, the Australian government has issued the results of a far more comprehensive study about crimes against students from the five largest source-markets: China, India, Malaysia, South Korea and the United States.

Described as “the first major study of its kind in Australia,” its central conclusion is that there is “nothing in the overall findings that lends support to the view that Indian students have been singled out primarily for racial reasons.” Instead it notes that the attacks are possibly the result of “large numbers of Indian students working in higher-risk employment (taxi driving and in convenience/fast food stores and service stations), working evening/night shifts and their use of public transport.”

On the same day that the Australian report was issued, the official Indian government Press Information Bureau issued a release which showed that Australia headed the list of countries where Indian embassies had recorded attacks on Indian citizens (not just students). In 2010, there were a total of 103 attacks reported in Australia, up from 11 in 2008. By comparison, there was only one attack in the United States and one in the UK.

Both these reports are set to create a whole new set of parameters for the global youth and student travel sector to take a deeper look at the flip-side of the glossy numbers touting its robust growth levels.

According to the Australian report, Australia grants more than 300,000 international student visas each year. This has made the international education sector the third largest export industry in Australia, generating approximately $18.3b per annum in recent years. “The sector also plays a critical role in fostering stronger international links and developing diverse skills in Australia and overseas.

Says the report, “In 2009 and 2010, a series of media reports of crimes against Indian international students led to growing concern over the safety of international students in Australia. The Australian Government takes very seriously any allegations that people are being criminally victimised. In 2010 the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, announced that the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) would conduct independent research into crimes against overseas students with particular reference to crime rates against Indian students.”

In response to these concerns, and the lack of existing police data to quantify the size of the problem, the AIC in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), sought ways to quantify the nature and extent to which Indian students were the victims of crime compared with other international student groups and the Australian population.

This substantially broadened the scope and nature of the study, making it “the most comprehensive student victimisation study ever conducted in Australia.” It is now a much bigger report into the incidence of assault and robbery crimes against overseas students in Australia between 2005- 2009.

It says, “This report provides the best available estimation of the extent to which international students have been the victims of crime during their time in Australia and has enabled the rate of recorded crimes experienced by international students from the five largest source countries (China, India, Malaysia, South Korea and the United States) to be compared with the rate for Australian reference populations.

AIC Director, Adam Tomison, said: “This ground-breaking analysis data-matched 418,294 students from the five source countries with police victim records over the five years. The nature of the data did not allow the AIC to engage in specific analysis of racial motivation. That said, there was nothing in the overall findings that lends support to the view that Indian students have been singled out primarily for racial reasons.”

Instead, the findings from this research do point to other factors such as employment and the use of public transport, that influence the risk or likelihood of overseas students experiencing crime. This provides direction for crime prevention efforts to reduce the risk of crime for this population.

Download the full report here.

Key findings show:

  • Rates of assault for Indian students were lower than or on par with rates for the general Australian population.
  • Rates of robbery against Indian students were higher than average for Australians in larger states for most years.
  • The proportion of robberies against Indian students occurring at commercial locations was approximately double that recorded for students from other countries.
  • Over half of robberies against Indian students on commercial premises occurred at service stations.

Says the report, “International students in the main are a particularly vulnerable group due to a range of factors including demographic characteristics and a lack of economic security together with relatively limited options of employment, housing and transport.

“The types of employment, areas of residence and evening activities (including both shift work and use of public transport) are specific areas of risk for international students that appear to explain some of the incidence of robbery for Indian students, in particular.

“Other research has shown that a high proportion of migrants to Australia from both English and non-English speaking countries are employed in the accommodation and food services industries, followed by the retail sector. The employment of international students in low-skilled, low-paid roles follows this pattern, with the largest proportion (29%) employed in accommodation and food services, followed by the retail trade (16%).”

The study adds, “Further, the limited availability of on-campus accommodation for higher education students, and the lack of on-campus accommodation for vocational students, have led many to secure private rentals in inner urban areas as well as to rely on public transport in areas with higher concentrations of crime. Together with their over-representation as employees in the hospitality and services sector, students are therefore faced with multiple risk factors that increase their probability of victimisation irrespective of their racial appearance.”

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Full text of statement issued by the Indian Government on 11 August 2011: Violence against Indians Abroad

The attention of the Government has been drawn towards attacks on Indians living in different countries. The country-wise details of Indians who lost their lives or injured in these attacks are stated below:

Country200820092010
1Australia1152103
2New Zealand….01
3Iran02
4Italy0101
5U.K (Edinburgh)02
6Kabul400213
7Thailand0101
8Philippines273130
9Jamaica01
10USA (Houston )0201
11Poland0706
12Chile01....
13South Africa02
14Trinidad & Tobago....01
15Venezuela0101

The issue of attacks on Indians in Australia has been taken up at the highest level by GOI, including at the Ministerial level as well as through the High Commission and its Consulates in Australia. It has been conveyed to the Australian Government that it was the responsibility of the Australian authorities to ensure the well being and security of all Indians in Australia. Indian High Commissioner and Consuls Generals in Australia remain in regular touch with the Australian authorities both at the federal and the state level. This has resulted in several measures being put in place on the ground to improve safety and security. The HCI and Consulates have also been in constant touch with the Indian community to offer support and assistance and follow-up on all reported cases of attacks. The steps taken by the Australian authorities have been effective, as reflected in the substantial decrease in the number of attacks in recent months.

High Commission of India, Wellington, New Zealand has stated that by and large law and order situation in New Zealand is good and no incident of racial attacks on Indians has so far come to the notice of the High Commission. The High Commission officials maintain regular contacts with the concerned local police authorities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Indian nationals abroad are sensitized by Indian Missions/Posts to maintain caution and vigilance in their general activities to avoid untoward incident. Consulate officials are sent to the place of incidence as considered necessary to liaise with the local authorities and Indian community, and render all possible assistance. Indian nationals are advised to contact the Indian Missions/Posts in case of any attack or assault. Indian Missions closely monitor the welfare of Indian citizens including their safety. Indian Missions maintain close liaison with the local administration/security agencies in the host countries and extends consular access to the Indians as and when required.

Source : http://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2011/08/australia-issues-report-on-crimes-against-foreign-students/

Imtiaz Muqbil is one of the longest serving travel-trade journalists in the Asia Pacific.

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