MP Urges Gov’t To Reassure India Its Students Safe In NZ

MP urges Govt to reassure India its students safe in NZ

By Lincoln Tan
The New Zealand Herald
4:00 AM Monday Jan 11, 2010

New Zealand must distance itself from Australia or risk losing students from India, this country's fastest growing export education market, says National Party list MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.

His warning comes after an attack in Melbourne at the weekend – the second in just a week and the latest in the string of attacks against people of Indian descent in Australia.

“The trouble is, many Indians see New Zealand and Australia as one and the same,” said Mr Bakshi.

The MP said he would approach the Ministry of Education and Immigration New Zealand to discuss using an “educational marketing programme” to make India aware New Zealand is not like Australia.

Last year, 8200 students from India came to study here – a 42 per cent increase from the previous year – and the country is New Zealand's third-largest student market, worth $2.1 billion, behind South Korea and China.

Since 1999, enrolments of Indian students in New Zealand have been increasing annually, except for 2005.

“New Zealand is different, safe and we welcome everybody – that is the message we have to get across to India,” said Mr Bakshi.

According to Education Minister Anne Tolley, export education also supports more than 32,000 jobs, and international students pay $600 million annually in fees.

Last week, India issued a state advisory warning its citizens studying in Australia to take “basic” precautions against possible attacks after a 21-year-old accounting graduate, Nitin Garg, was stabbed to death in Melbourne on January 2.

On Saturday, a 29-year-old man was rushed to hospital after being set on fire in the Victorian capital, leaving him with 15 per cent burns.

New Delhi's warning said acts of violence against Indians had often been fuelled by drugs and alcohol.

Australian police insist there is no reason to believe the two incidents were racially motivated, but admit 1447 people of Indian descent were victims of crime in Victoria in the year to July 2008.

Despite the attacks, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australia was “a very safe country” and had a low homicide rate.

Besides sharp condemnation from the Indian Government, the attacks also drew allegations of Australian racism in Indian media.

The Mail Today printed a cartoon showing an Australian police officer in a Ku Klux Klan hood.

“We perceive the Melbourne police to be a racist organisation simply because it seems it is not acting fast enough on the attacks on Indian students,” editor Bharat Bhushan was quoted as saying by AFP.

The series of attacks on Indians in Australia sparked street protests and a diplomatic row in the middle of last year.