The outbreak of Covid19 shattered the globe. Every single person had suffered huge losses during the first few months of the pandemic. But the category of people who are still under sufferance is the international students.
On 20th March 2020, a complete lockdown was called for in Australia. It is March 2021; almost a year has passed and is still no emphasis on the offshore students’ lives stuck abroad. The Australian Government was expected to have the littlest of sympathy towards them.
On 5th February 2021, the state and the federal leaders had the national cabinet meeting done. The overseas students breathed a sigh of relief when they heard of the meeting arrangement in the hope of getting a timeline for their return.
But no such thing happened. The meeting wrapped up without any fruitful news coming on the way for the international students.
To be noted, around 30%, which stands for approximately 164,000 of Australia’s 542,106 student visa holders on 10th January 2021, were struck outside the country. Among this, not less than 12,740 student visa holders were Indians.
The meeting was expected to announce some measures in favor of the overseas students in terms of traveling back to Australia abiding by proper covid19 protocols to resume their academic careers. It was also expected that they would pass several proposed plans.
Unfortunately, no name of international students or academic field was raised in the meeting to bring the overseas students back to Australia.
The Prime Minister’s opinion
Prime minister Scott Morrison clearly stated that the countries first and foremost priority are the 40,000 Australian citizens who are currently stuck overseas. No date or mention was made by him for the overseas students, though.
He also said the country’s cap effective mid-February would be increased from 4,100 back up to 6,300 at the moment. He also exclaimed that to hold more international arrival for the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days, and an expansion will be carried on in The Howard Springs Quarantine Facility.
Australian citizens are to be entered via federal government repatriation flights, which are not included in the number of caps. The facility will be used only for them.
Morrison was quoted saying, “It was agreed once again that Australian residents’ return is the priority in terms of arrivals to Australia. We must remember that our borders are actually shut. No one can just come to Australia”.
He continued, “To be able to come to Australia, you need to be an Australian resident or citizen or have a particular exemption in a particular occupation or something of that nature which is handled through [the] Border Force to enable someone to come. And that is only a small proportion of the arrivals that come to Australia.”
International students- a question mark
Phil Honeywood of the IEAA exclaimed that a change of focus is now required as the meeting’s result made him disappointed. He was quoted saying, “In the absence of any national leadership for the return of international students, we are now focused on individual premiers support in returning students to particular states.”
The state government in November 2020 made 100- students return to Sydney each week. At the same time, premier Gladys Berejiklian of NSW (New South Wales) had planned to keep open the state’s borders within few weeks for the overseas students.
On the other hand, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is helpless because he cannot provide facilities to around 165,000 international students who are stuck overseas. He said it would be unbelievably challenging, if not impossible, to deal with this in the year 2021.
Every state of the country does have the right to propose plans and construct strategies to bring back the international students. However, the preliminary decision to fulfill those plans will depend on the Federal Government.
Actions by the students
In the urge to open Australia’s doors for them to return, over 17,000 overseas students had signed a petition addressing the House of Representatives. The petition was noted, saying that worse quality virtual classes are unbearable for them to study from afar.
They even agreed to pay any amount of money as their fee structure in order to maintain the quarantine rule yet join their classes voluntarily. They said that they are not going to enter any premises of the Australian places until their quarantine period of 14 days gets over after returning to Australia.
The students continued; they will be self-quarantined in the student apartments until the 14 days are over. But all they want is to return to their schools and colleges to carry on their education. No positive result came their way after putting on so much effort.
Nor the petition nor their virtual request could convince the Australian Government to consider the International students’ academic career.
Covid19 condition in Australia
A total of 28,970 confirmed cases were recorded on 2nd March 2021, including 909 deaths and 69 active cases. On 3rd March 2021, the Australian Government announced a three-month extension on their travel ban due to a hike in active cases, which was supposed to end on 17th March ’21.
In such a condition, there is no hope of the Government announcing any measure plans or policies regarding the international students’ future. Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter the country.
After entering the country, nobody will be permitted to leave without an exemption for travel. Many hopeless students are considering giving up their studies and returning to their home countries in such conditions.
Given the situation, there is no hope of the Australian Government giving a thought about the international students apart from their own country. The future of the offshore students at the moment is under darkness, and no movement is being made to shed light on it.