For the last couple of weeks, Australia has been trading barbs with India, on a series of what were deemed racially motivated attacks on Indian students studying in the country.
So who are those Indian students getting attacked?
Melbourne has been attracting Indian students in large numbers, but they are mostly enrolled in vocational courses—like cookery or hair-dressing and hospitality—offered by colleges operating from a few rooms in buildings located in the central business district or suburbs.
The students in these institutions are from rural Punjab or small towns from other parts of north India. Their principal motivation isn’t education. They are here to acquire “PR” or “Permanent Residency”, for which one must have stayed in Australia for at least two years. Egging them on are the agents in India, weaving the alluring Australian dream but omitting to mention other criteria a PR candidate must fulfil. Buying this dream are mostly Indians from poorer economic backgrounds, doomed to feel alienated in kangaroo country.
Salaem says it isn’t the white Australians who are attacking Indians. He blames the violence on those who have migrated from Muslim countries or Africa. But he concedes that the government’s open-door immigration policy has created enormous problems for white Australians. “The government’s education policy of getting students from India and other countries is depriving our local boys a chance to get into universities.”
So economic insecurities combined with a sudden large infusion of foreign population from a single source, with little efforts and policies directed towards integration creates frictions. Where have we seen this before?