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Increased Tensions Reported Between Police, African Migrants in Melbourne

A new report has leveled fresh claims of racism against police in the southern Australian state of Victoria. A survey by legal experts in Melbourne indicates that the perception of discrimination against young Africans by police officers has led to increased tensions.

A study by three community-based legal services in the southern Australian city of Melbourne has found that young African migrants often feel intimidated and unfairly targeted by the police.

Some have made allegations of being physically and verbally abused by officers in the state of Victoria, where police have faced criticism over a series of attacks on Indian students over the past year.

The survey on attitudes toward African settlers will place more pressure on Victorian authorities over accusations of racism within police ranks.

Daniel Haile-Michael, an immigrant from Ethiopia, claims he was assaulted by a police officer in Melbourne five years ago simply because of the color of his skin.

"One of the officers came towards me, and asked me what the hell I was doing, and I told him I'd just come from the flats and then he got more and more aggressive and then the next thing I found myself I was on the ground and he was laying punches into me and all I could do was start screaming," he said.

Haile-Michael's complaint was investigated by Victorian police but no charges were ever brought. Experts say racial abuse of young Africans is common.

Victoria's police chief commissioner, Simon Overland, admits that some of his officers are racists but says much is being done to change bigoted attitudes.

He insists the "vast majority" of police officers are not racist, but says he will take prompt action against any substantiated allegations.

The reputation of Victoria's police service has been damaged by a number of attacks on Indian expatriates in Melbourne over the past year. Officials say that while some may have been racially motivated, most were the work of opportunistic criminals preying on soft targets.

Politicians and the news media in India have accused Australia of not doing enough to protect foreign students from racist gangs.