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Indians Make Very Good Immigrants

Posted on July 10, 2009
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John McCarthy, Australian High Commissioner to India in an interview with Udit Misra, Forbes India, June 22

What is the nature of the violent attacks on the Indians in Australia? If the attacks are racial, even in part, then what could be the reasons?
It is not just a mob of mad racists running around in Melbourne. There have been a number of robberies of Indian students and assaults on Indian students in particular parts of Melbourne especially in the recent months. And this was something that we wish had not happened. But I think it was brought about largely by large number Indian students coming to one particular location, that’s Melbourne, without much money. They felt compelled, because they did not have much money, to live in the poor areas in Melbourne. They work late in the night at jobs and they are vulnerable to attack. Now certainly theft played a very significant role in it, hooliganism has played a very significant role in it and there may have been people who, somewhere in their thought processes, there was a racist factor as well. But I quite seriously think it’s principally a criminal issue with in certain cases racist overtones. But it’s certainly not racism sweeping Melbourne.

Our image has taken a hit and we have got to work on it. And we propose to. The police have already deployed much greater resources in the affected areas in Melbourne.

If the attacks are essentially criminal in nature then how come there are so many in a short time span of one month?
I think that was just unfortunate statistics. And I don t know the answer to that. There may have been a couple that were acting by example as they call. You see news of an attack and then another group says why we don’t do that…I don’t know.

So would it not be correct to say that there are some unresolved issues with managing these multi cultured population in Australia. I mean, what we have seen in the last month or so, is it the tip of the iceberg?
No, I think there are always going to be issues in any big country of immigration.

Considering that the local police in Victoria have accepted that the attacks were racially motivated, do you agree that the Australian establishment reacted a little late?
Whether or not the police could have moved in more quickly, you know, it is fine for me to be sitting in Delhi to be wise with hindsight…may be in certain instances they could. There were complaints that they did not move in as fast as they could but on the other hand they are very good police force and I’d be surprised if this was the habitual behaviour. I think everybody was surprised in Australia and India by the way this grew as an issue…so quickly.

Now you mentioned that there could be an issue with the Indian students going to Australia with a long term view of settling there. Is that something that the embassy here in New Delhi looking at, say when you are granting visas?
It’s more of a policy issue in Australia and it’s not just for India but globally.

I mean, is it resented in Australia that so many Indian might be looking at an opportunity to settle down in Australia?
No, no. They (Indians) make very good immigrants. I think the issue really is that when you get very large numbers coming down very quickly to study with a view to permanent residence, some time you don’t have the educational infrastructure to deal with that. Also, in terms of Australia’s reputation as a destination for education it needs to be balanced. You need to have an element of the PhD type of research, an element of Masters, an element doing Bachelor’s degrees, an element doing ordinary vocational training.

Do you think the embassy would now like to calibrate that?
I think there is a recognition in Australia anyway that it need to be calibrated. We have been aware of this for some time and it’s a global policy and not just India.

Should we expect some more action on this incident?
I think you will probably see some fine tuning of our education policy after this, yes.

Are you concerned that Indians in particular, and Asian in general, might shun Australia as a destination for educational and employment needs?
The first and foremost issue is that the crimes got to stop and our reputation as a country should not suffer.

The secondary and tertiary issues are that we have to look at whether it is affecting our reputation as a destination for education. Yes, I mean, I suspect it’s certainly making some people reconsider and there is evidence of that. We hope that in fullness of time that sort of perception will go.

Find this article in Forbes India Magazine of 03 July, 2009

Complete Article online

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