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Immigration Minister to visit India and Sri Lanka.

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Senator Chris Evans Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Immigration Minister to visit India and Sri Lanka

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, will travel to India on Sunday to reassure the Indian Government that Australia remains a safe destination for Indian students and migrants.

Senator Evans will be the first Minister to travel to India since concerns about the welfare of Indian students in Australia were raised domestically and abroad.

'While discussions about recent unfortunate events in Australia will be high on the agenda, I want to ensure the Indian people that the Australian Government is committed to providing a safe environment for international students in Australia,' Senator Evans said.

'Australia is a tolerant, multicultural society that prides itself on its diversity and the Government takes very seriously Australia's reputation as a safe destination for international students seeking high-quality education.

'The Government has established a taskforce on the issue and has sought to reassure the students, the Indian High Commission and relevant authorities in India that we take seriously our responsibility to provide a safe environment for international students.'

Senator Evans will meet a number of his Indian Government counterparts, including the Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi during his three day visit.

The Minister's visit follows meetings and discussions with members of the Indian community in Australia including students, academics and media.

'There has been rapid growth in the numbers of Indian nationals coming to Australia to settle, to study, for business as well as for tourism,' Senator Evans said.

'As a result, India now ranks as the largest source of general skilled migrants to Australia, the second-largest source, after China, of students and the second-largest source, after the United Kingdom, of temporary business visa grants.

'Despite extensive media coverage about the welfare of Indian students in Australia recently, there is no evidence of a decline in Indian nationals applying to study in Australia. In fact, figures for June show an increase of 8 per cent on May.

'This visit will provide a timely opportunity to outline migration changes in Australia which reflect fluctuations in demand across occupations, in particular in the information and communication technology sector.

'I want to reassure the Indian people that Australia provides a high-quality and responsive visa service to clients in India, while ensuring the integrity of our visa processes and caseloads.'

The minister will also visit Sri Lanka, where he will be joined by Australia's Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues, Peter Woolcott, for a series of meetings in Colombo.

Senator Evans will discuss Australia's keen interest to continue to work closely with Sri Lanka to address issues relating to irregular migration and people smuggling, including disrupting and interdicting people smuggling ventures.

'The Australian Government is appreciative of Sri Lanka's cooperation on people smuggling issues and we wish to emphasise the importance Australia places on working with regional partners to combat irregular migration and people smuggling,' Senator Evans said.

'Australia is relieved that the conflict in Sri Lanka is over. We hope that the Sri Lankan Government will ensure that civilians who have suffered the trauma of recent conflict are cared for and treated appropriately.'

Senator Evans said that the Australian Government is committed to providing help to the affected civilians in Sri Lanka and had provided $23.5 million to support relief efforts this year.

URL: /media/media-releases/2009/ce09067.htm Last update: 23 July 2009 at 09:26 AEST