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'Racism Rife in Australia,' International Students Say


A study of violence against international students of Melbourne has found about 50 percent think their race or religion put their safety at risk of attack. A series of violent assaults on Indian students has taken place in Australia's leading cities, Sydney and Melbourne, in the past year.

The Victoria University report finds that large numbers of young foreigners feel unsafe in Melbourne.

More than 500 students from Asia took part in the survey. About half said they believed their race or religion made them vulnerable to unprovoked violence.

The study finds that a variety of factors put students at risk, including their reliance on public transportation and their housing in disadvantaged districts of Melbourne.

But the motive for assaults on foreign students is harder to determine.

Associate Professor Michele Grossman, the report's co-author, says more work needs to be done to find out what part racism has in attacks.

"Some police in our study said that they felt that while an attack might begin as an opportunistic one, or where the primary intent was opportunistic, that sometimes racism could enter into that as a kind of secondary element designed to further humiliate or weaken the resistance of a victim during the course of a robbery or of another kind of violent assault" he said.

The authors of the study also interviewed government officials, police officers, and representatives of the education industry.

Some of the students surveyed said that police in Melbourne are not helpful and that some officers are racist.

The Victoria state government says it is working with the police to make students feel more secure.

Violence and racism have been highlighted by a series of attacks on young Indian expatriates in Melbourne and Sydney in the past year.

Indian student groups accuse the authorities of not doing enough to combat racist gangs. Investigators think that while some of the assaults were undoubtedly motivated by racial hatred, most were perpetrated by common criminals preying on lone victims late at night in search of computers, mobile phones and cash.

The assaults have strained diplomatic relations between India and Australia.

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