Indian scribe assaulted in Australia (Lead)

July 27th, 2009 - 3:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, July 27 (IANS) An Indian journalist working undercover to expose migration and education scams in Australia was assaulted over the weekend after being threatened earlier, it was reported Monday.
ABC News Online reported that the woman was attacked possibly because of her work. She was working on a report for the Four Corners programme, ABC said.

“The woman was subjected to threats during the making of the programme and attacked over the weekend. Police have been notified,” ABC Online said. The journalist was not identified by name.

The Sydney Morning Herald said the attack took place near the ABC studios in the Inner-Sydney suburb of Ultimo.

The reporter went to two migration agents posing as someone wanting to pass an English language test without having the skills and told them that she was willing to buy fake work certificates.

She learnt she could do both if she paid between $3,000 and $5,000.

Executive producer of ABC news Mark Bannerman told Times Now: “For six to eight weeks we have been working on a story to try and understand the real state of the Indian… foreign students education market in Australia.

“The much more severe problem was the way they were in fact being treated by immigration agents and the colleges they had enrolled at.

“We began a pretty hefty investigation and the use of an undercover reporter… What we uncovered was a range of scandals within the industry.”

Bannerman said the undercover reporter received phone threats indicating that “she would not be safe”.

“Then on the weekend she was actually physically attacked on the street. We believe that potentially possibly because of the work she had been doing.”

There have also been at least 19 incidents of attacks on Indian students or their property in Australia since May 9. The attacks, in Melbourne and Sydney, have caused an uproar in India.

The student victims have said the incidents seemed racially motivated.

Gautam Gupta, advisor of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia, said about the attack on the reporter: “It is an unfortunate attack… Most people are shocked.

“Our organisation has received threats in the past. I have personally received threats. It is a disconcerting development.”

The Four Corners programme aims to “expose a number of cases where students (coming to Australia) have lost tens of thousands of dollars”, ABC Online said.

To highlight the plight of Indian students, the programme spoke to the family of student Prabmeet Singh, who had spent over $40,000 on a course at the Sydney flying school Aerospace Aviation.

His mother Pushpinder Kaur said the family was now broke and her son still did not have the pilot’s licence.

“It is a fraud. We were shown so many rosy pictures about the school and it is not what it is really, it was just a scam,” Kaur was quoted as saying.

“I think the government should be more alert in these type of matters because it is the career of the children which is at stake.”

Other Indian students have told Four Corners programme that the aviation college failed to deliver its promised 200 hours of flying time over 52 weeks.

Aerospace Aviation’s spokeswoman Sue Davis has defended the training and has questioned the level of commitment and dedication among the affected students, the report said.

The programme also revealed unscrupulous practices by migration and education agents.

Karl Konrad, an education and migration agent based in Sydney, says he has been aware of a black market in dodgy documents for years.

“I had many students come to my offices and say, ‘oh I can buy letters for $3,000 at particular restaurants’,” he was quoted as saying by ABC online.

“They didn’t name the restaurants, but I was getting many of these type of stories. (So) we sent that information to the Immigration Department and they in turn thanked us for the information and said they would pass it on to Trades Recognition Australia. Nothing ever became of that.”

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