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India Warns Students About Australia Violence

  • Phil Mercer

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says her country will continue to welcome Indian students despite New Delhi's warning that they could face robberies and assaults in Melbourne.

The Indian government has warned its citizens to take extra care while studying in Melbourne. The advisory identifies Australia's second-largest city as a hotspot for street crime and says that violence against Indians is often fueled by drugs and alcohol.

The warning urges students not to travel alone at night. It was prompted by the murder of an accounting graduate from Punjab in Melbourne last week.

The death of 21-year-old Nitin Garg, who was stabbed in a suburban park on his way to work at a restaurant, has reignited concerns about the safety of young Indians studying in Australia. Over the past year, a number of Indians were victims of assaults.

The Australian government says the travel warning is a matter for Indian authorities but Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the country is still a safe place for young foreigners.

"By world standards we have a very low homicide rate. Yes, in big cities around the world we do see acts of violence from time to time. That happens in Melbourne, it happens in Mumbai, it happens in New York, it happens in London," she said.

The attacks have frightened many Indian students in Australia. Garg's murder could push some to leave and others back home in India not to come at all.

Indian student leaders are convinced Garg was the victim of racists and say the hostility they face in Melbourne has become intolerable.

Australian police say there is no evidence that the murder was racially motivated. Senior officers, however, have said that some previous assaults on young Indians were hate crimes.

The violence has strained diplomatic ties, with New Delhi pushing Canberra to do more to make its cities safer for Indians.

Opposition politicians in Australia have accused the authorities in Victoria state of failing to stem what they describe as a "tide of violence against young Indians."