Aus police chief assures security to protesting Indians

Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said Australian police was working hard towards ensuring security for Indian students and a representative was being sent to India to discuss security issues with prospective students.

"We have made a number of arrests this week and we will continue to work harder," Overland said.

"We know we need to make security improvements. We will continue to work and I am happy to meet with a delegation from this group (protestors) this week," he said.

Overland also defended action to disperse protesters, who refused to move from one of the busiest streets of Melbourne till early this morning, saying the police was "entirely justified" in using force to break up the protest.

"Violence is not OK... racism is not OK. I have come here because I understand your concerns... you have made your point. We need to work together on this issue... but now I ask you to go home," he told the protestors.

Overland said there was some force used after students were given the opportunity to leave and they refused to do so.

About 18 youths were detained for allegedly "breaching peace" during the rally as protestors accused the police of "ramrodding" them to break up their sit-in.

Overland said he watched from the Police Operations Centre and he believed that what he saw was appropriate.

The students, however, called off their protest at 5.15 am (local time).

On the query if students were asked to "move on" from their protest, he said they had already made their point and were asked to leave because the intersection needed to be cleared for peak hour traffic.

He said violence, against which they were protesting was "unacceptable" and the police has been working on this issue for 18 months with Indian students and universities.

On the recent spate of attacks on Indians, Overland said he believed that "some of the robbery attacks are racially motivated and others are opportunistic".

"Whatever the motivation, they are not okay, violence is not okay, being robbed is not okay," he said, adding, that there was no place for racism in the community.

"What has been happening to Indian students is unacceptable and we can understand this," he said.

Meanwhile, Federation of Indian Students in Australia (FISA), which spearheaded the massive protest here, said in a statement that the rally was aimed at creating awareness about increasing number of what they called 'hate crimes' in Victoria and to promote racial harmony and peace.

Education-related travel is Australia's biggest service export to India, valued at USD 2 billion in 2007-08, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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