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Australia wants more students from India: Envoy

Chandigarh, Feb 22 (IANS) Australian High Commissioner Peter Verghese Monday said that despite the recent incidents of violence, his country wanted more students from India, particularly from Punjab.

Coming to the state capital of Punjab, the state that contributes the maximum number of students to institutions in Australia, Verghese said the contribution of the Punjabi community to various societies, including Australia, could not be discounted.

‘The Indian diaspora story is never complete without counting the contribution made by Punjabis in different countries including Australia,’ Verghese said at a crowded meet-the-press programme at the Chandigarh Press Club here.

Assuring the safety of Indian students studying in Australia, Verghese said the government in Australia was making sure that quality education is made available to international students coming there.

‘We take the incidents of attacks on Indian students very seriously; this is one area which is of concern not only for India but also for Australia. We always want more number of international students to come to Australia to have quality education in a safer environment. We have taken many steps to ensure the safety of international students,’ said Verghese.

He added: ‘As many as 250,000 Indians have made Australia their home and presently 100,000 Indian students are studying there.’

Nearly 40,000 Punjabi students are studying in different educational institutes in Australia.

Verghese said that Australian government has closed some poor quality colleges in the last few months.

‘We are also keeping a tab on sub-standard educational institutes. We have tightened the criteria of their registration and also checked their quality output. We have closed many institutes in the past that were found not meeting the set standards,’ stated Verghese.

‘We just want to make sure that genuine students and individuals do not suffer at all. We have also made changes in skilled migration laws, these changes are not only for India but for every other country.’

In the last one year, several attacks on Indian students, especially Punjabis, have been reported from Melbourne and other places in Australia. In many cases, the students and Indian media alleged that these incidents were racially motivated.

Four students from Punjab have died in Australia in the last three months. The involvement of Indian nationals in causing three of these deaths was later found out by the Australian police.

Talking about the safety measures taken in the last few months the high commissioner said: ‘We have worked to maintain the law enforcement order of criminal justice, increased the police resources, strengthen our legislation to give more powers to police to prevent people from carrying weapons, to keep tab on unruly youth and to impose higher penalty on violators.’

‘We have brought various legal reforms, increased the interaction between students and police, initiated 24-hour resource centres for assistance to international students and we are fast catching and prosecuting the culprits. In the past, we have made 70 arrests and in one case the punishment was even up to 18 years.’

Originally belonging to Kerela, Verghese was born in Kenya, where his family had migrated years ago and then settled in Australia.

The high commissioner also expressed concern over the mushrooming of unscrupulous agents deceiving gullible Indian students in the name of education.

He said: ‘It is a serious issue that some agents are providing wrong information to Indian students and assuring them of permanent residency after studies. We can counter this by circulating and making available more authentic information. We are also working closely with the Indian government to do so.’

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