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Australia told of new concerns on student issue
Old 23rd June 2010, 07:56 PM   #1
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Default Australia told of new concerns on student issue

Vayalar Ravi calls for safeguarding students doing vocational courses

India is urging Australia to chart its new immigration policy in a manner that will not affect the Indian students who were granted visas for vocational courses before the start of the current exercise to change the relevant laws.

In raising concerns over a possible “retrospective impact” on these students, India was not disputing Australia's sovereign rights to change its laws, said Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi here on Tuesday.

Seriousness of issue

Speaking to The Hindu while on his way back home after visiting Australia and New Zealand, Mr. Ravi said he was informed that there was absolutely no intention to reduce the number of Australian immigration visas in respect of eligible Indian students. However, he received no promises from the authorities at this stage. At the same time, he “impressed upon them” how serious India's concerns were.

One issue was a spin-off from Canberra's right to place a cap on the number of Indians who could pursue vocational training courses. A more pressing concern was an emerging scenario of difficulties for those already in Australia with expectations of permanent residence under the old rules.

There were no serious problems at any time concerning the Indian students who had regularly gone to Australian universities for the sole purpose of higher education.

India, for its part, was now considering new legislation to “regulate student mobility” as part of an overall emigration-management exercise. The idea was to “focus on agents and not on the individual students going abroad,” he emphasised.

Agents under scanner

Student-recruiting agents, on their own or on behalf of the education service providers in countries such as Australia, were now under the scanner in that country as well.

Mr. Ravi told his Australian interlocutors, including the Immigration and Foreign Ministers, Chris Evans and Stephen Smith respectively, that New Delhi appreciated the steps taken to enhance the security of Indian students across Australia. India also recognised that the problems its students were facing in Australia were “not a racial issue.”

Tracing his “argument” that was put across to the Australian authorities, Mr. Ravi said: “The Indian students now in Australia [for the vocational stream] came on the basis of your list of skilled occupations for employment [while studying] and for permanent residence. It is good that you reduced the list from 400 to 181 occupations, and we have no quarrel on that. These students came on the [previous] list. But all of a sudden, you now ask them to find a sponsor before the end of 2012, or go away. That seems to be the problem.”

Sponsorship issue

The issue of sponsorship was “a new complication” now. Extending the “argument,” Mr. Ravi recalled that he told the Australian authorities as follows: “You are allowing changes in the courses of study. But where are the courses? Many colleges [for vocational training] have been closed.” Quality considerations and other factors accounted for such closures, he pointed out.

As for the Indian professionals employed in Australia, without any linkage to the students' issue, talks for a bilateral social security agreement “are in an advanced stage,” said Mr. Ravi.


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