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Aus cops ignored attacks on Indian students

January 20, 2010 15:34 IST

Australia's top police officials ignored the frequent attacks on overseas students, mostly Indians, even though Prime Minster Kevin Rudd and other politicians promised prompt action against the culprits, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) query.

Neither the regular meetings held between late 2008 to June 2 last year nor the supporting Senior Officers Group did discuss students' security issues, a media report said on Wednesday.

"The attacks were not discussed at the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management in the 17 months to last November," Attorney General's department was quoted as saying by The Australian.

The Police Ministers Council did not meet specifically on the attacks "as the issue was the subject of a special task force established by the Prime Minister", a spokesman of Home Affairs was quoted as saying by the paper.

State and territory police agencies attended meetings of the Prime Minister's task force, which met regularly for six weeks from June last year, he said. Despite requests, Home Affairs declined to say whether the task force had produced a report, or to give an account of activities and achievements.

"It's extraordinary, given what we know was going on at the time," said Mark Briskey, head of the Australian Graduate School of Policing at Charles Sturt University, adding that Australia and India should jointly investigate against criminals involved in visa and document frauds to better protect overseas students.

"There should be a dedicated bilateral approach between Australia and India looking at fraudulent and unethical education and migration agents in both countries," Briskey was quoted as saying by the paper.

A transnational crime expert and former investigator of Australian police, Briskey also called for more co-ordinated action to deal with frauds despite a federal working group on overseas students, but hardly any dedicated investigatory group to probe links damaging Australian education industry.

Tony Pollock, chief executive of IDP, an organisation offering services to overseas students had expressed concern last October on the issue.

Some overseas students had become victims of a highly integrated chain of exploitative education and migration advice, with access to dodgy colleges, part-time work and accommodation, Pollock had said. "This could be construed as people-smuggling," he said.

Earlier, the Immigration department have cancelled applications of 500 Indian students and education agents were implicated in providing false bank and loan statements with the help of corrupt staff.

"[But] this [chain of student exploitation] is below the radar of what's being looked at as the primary people-smuggling problem. By far, largest number of illegal entrants come by aircraft," he said.

A bilateral investigatory approach was essential to deal with "something that walks the tightrope between organised crime and opportunistic business practises that could be criminal in both India and Australia", he said.
Natasha Chaku in Melbourne
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