From The Times of India 25 Feb 2009
“Indian students studying in New Zealand’s southernmost city Invercargill have been targets of racial abuse and called terrorists by local people, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Four of those targeted are Sikhs who wear turbans, which they said made some ignorant people confuse them with Arabs or Muslims, the Southland Times reported.
One victim, Jasdeep Singh, told the paper he had defied his religious principles and had a haircut to avoid wearing a turban because he feared for his safety.
“I haven’t told my parents yet,” he said. “They will be shocked and quite angry.”
Five students out of a group of 25 who arrived in Invercargill this month to study at the Southern Institute of Technology said they had experienced 16 incidents of racial abuse in the last 12 days.
Jasmail Singh said the abusers, men and women, were generally in their early 20s and the attacks, including calls to leave the country, had put them off walking around the city after dark”
Recent increases in migrant numbers have caused tensions to rise in the town where around 90% of the population was born in New Zealand.
Things got so bad last year that mayor, Tim Shadbolt and chief executive of the Southland Institute of Technology Penny Simmonds arranged a meeting with local skinheads.
Ms Simmonds said that two Indian students decided to return home after they were abused by a carload of youths. Other Southland leaders told of mothers being ignored at day care centres, 6-year-old children making racist remarks and migrants in rural areas feeling so isolated they visited the library to talk to someone.
Mr Shadbolt recommended that a designated student area with a hostel be set up away from the central business district because anyone walking through the city at night faced the risk of being abused “even if you go out with a police patrol”
“I’d hate to be wearing a turban walking up (the street in) Invercargill,” he said.
In March of this year a couple were forced to flee their Earn Street home after it was trashed by a white supremacists group that had moved in to number 43.
Other residents also suffered wilful damage to property, intimidation and threatening behaviour from the group.
But it’s not just migrant groups that have been subjected to abuse in the town, Gypsies have been targeted recently too.
Around 60 Gypsies, in the town for the annual Gypsy fair over the Easter weekend, called Invercargill the “worst town in New Zealand” and said that they dreaded going there because of violent attacks and vandalism from local hoons.
There have been calls for a “zero tolerance” approach to racially motivated crimes in Invercargill and the problem has been widely acknowledged to exist, yet the community either lacks the resolution or the resources to tackle it head on.