The international students enrolled at the Australian Universities are still stuck in a loop. It’s been months, and yet, the Government is reluctant to bring them back. Despite contributing the $40 billion to the economy, the Government has turned a blind eye to international students’ pleas. The meeting held at the national cabinet on 5th February once again shed no light on these students’ plight. The Government was once also unable to provide a proper timeframe for bringing back the international students inside Australia.
Since last November, the Australian Government has been having long debates about bringing back the international students inside the country. While some are in favor of the move, others want to prioritize the Australian citizens. On 5th February 2021, the national cabinet got together to discuss matters related to the covid-19 pandemic. The cabinet was supposed to discuss vaccine strategies as well as travel-related plans in the meeting. However, Australia’s Prime Minister, Scot Morrison, did not engage in a conversation about international students.
Morrison only mentioned that international arrivals’ restriction would be increased from 4100 to 6300 from mid-February. He also spoke about expanding the quarantine facilities in the Northern Territory. This is to deal with the increase in international arrivals in the country and provide enough space for 14 days of quarantine. However, he maintained his silence on announcing the arrival dates of international students.
He informed everyone that the Government’s top priority is to bring back the Australian Citizens first as around 40,000 Australians are stranded outside their country. He reminded the citizens that the borders are shut and ‘No one can just come to Australia.’
According to him, you need to be an Australian Citizen or resident to gain entry into the country. Those who have exemptions in specific professions or their arrival are handled by the Border force can also return to the country. However, according to Morrison, that proportion is deficient compared to the 542,106 international students stuck outside the country.
IEAA is not happy
The International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) is not happy with the Government’s decision. Phil Honeywood from IEAA has reported that the recent meeting’s outcome was ‘disappointing,’ and there is a dire need to change the current quarantine strategies’ focus. The IEAA has lost hope for the National Government, and their only hope is for the respective states to bring back their international students. The states are responsible for coming up with a suitable plan. However, the final decision will be in the hands of the Federal Government.
ACT and the Southern part of Australia have already come up with their plans on bringing back international students. The Federal Government is yet to dish out a decision.
States showing massive amounts of effort
While the Federal Government is not very excited to bring back international students, that is not the case with the Australian States. Some of the states are ready to welcome their international students as it will help them to boost their economy.
The ACT or Australian Capital Territory came up with plans that are yet to be approved by the Federal Government. The plan was to bring back the international students to Canberra as early as February 2021. the Chief Minister of ACT, Andrew Barr, proposed a plan to the Prime Minister which suggested alternating flight. The incoming flights alternate between bringing back the Aussies and bringing back the international students. This is to be done for at least the first three months of this year.
South Australia has come up with a pilot scheme which suggests bringing back around 300 international students. The plan is to bring back the students to the three universities owned by the State –Flinders University, University of South Australia, and the University of Adelaide. These universities have asked international students from Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Hong Kong to be a part of their pilot program. Even though the Federal Government is quiet, the universities have sent letters to these students to put them in a ‘stand-by’ mode. The initial plan was to bring back the students from November 2020 to January 2021.
Victoria is still in its formative stages of bringing back its international students. Initially, the plan was to bring back around 23000 international students in early 2021. Their plan included providing students’ accommodation facilities to these students instead of using up the Federal Government’s quarantine facilities. International education experts and accommodation agencies made the plan not an obstacle in the way the Australians came back home. The accommodation agencies sponsor the chartered flights they are supposed to come back in. Though it might take a lot of money, it will boost up the Australian economy.
The one who succeeded
While the other parts of Australia are struggling to bring back their international students, only one jurisdiction is successful. The Northern Territory of Australia successfully brought a small group of international students back as a part of their pilot program. Sixty-three students were brought back to Australia in November 2020. The initiative was taken by Charles Darwin University (CDU)after months of planning and is the only approved pilot program in the country. The students brought back were asked to quarantine in the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility, now allotted to incoming Australian citizens by the Federal Government. The international students brought back were from Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, and China.
The CDU is now awaiting approval from the Federal Government on bringing the next batch of international students inside the country. An official from the university informed a news agency that they were planning to get back students from other countries not included in the first batch, such as India.
The ball now lies in Morrison’s Government’s court – whether or not the international students enter the country. According to Honeywood, it has become a ‘human rights’ issue. Even after paying so much money, these international students are never prioritized in times of crisis.