As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said his state would not help facilitate the arrival of almost 165,000 international students stuck abroad, international students hoping to return to Victoria have just been hit with another blow. Andrews delivered the message to students hoping to return to Australia via Victoria on Monday (Jan. 18, 2021), according to The Guardian.
“He was quoted as saying, “Even if every Aussie who wanted to come home had already made it home, there is a big capacity issue here. I am not pleased with the fact that our biggest export is international education. But the government doesn’t spend hours and hours trying to do something that, frankly, I don’t think is possible. This year, tens and tens of thousands of international students coming back here will be incredibly challenging, if not impossible.
Australia’s international education sector has a national value of 40 billion Australian dollars and AU$8 billion in Victoria alone. Student accommodation providers in Australia suggested that international students be able to quarantine their buildings to prevent Australian residents’ return to Australia from being bottlenecked. Andrews had previously said that “bespoke” quarantine facilities were an option that his government would consider, but that Victoria quarantine standards would have to be run according to COVID-19. We have done that correctly, which would apply regardless of who came in with the group. We can’t have every hotel room in the city being guarded by Victoria Police,” he was quoted saying.
A long journey ahead to the return of international students to Victoria?
Returning students and the sector were let down by Premier Andrew’s statement yesterday that he “can’t see international students coming back to Victoria in 2021”. Compared to any other state, we are Victoria’s biggest industry!
— Phil Honeywood (@PhilHoneywood) January 19, 2021
The Australian federal government has temporarily reduced the number of international arrivals allowed in the country. Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said caps on international arrivals in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland would be reduced by 50% until 15 February, when the new mutant COVID-19 strain of the UK was detected in a Brisbane quarantine hotel cleaner, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. He also said that the country would introduce new rules on air travel.
The international arrival cap on Australia has given rise to concern for those in the international education sector. International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) CEO Phil Honeywood said the announcement would test student loyalty to Australia. IEAA will also continue to lobby the federal government and write to Morrison about students’ return to Australia. The Guardian said that the state and federal governments are under increasing pressure to repatriate some 40,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents still stranded abroad due to strict arrival caps, which means that international students have a lower priority. Government data shows that in October 2020, only 130 new and returning international students entered Australia, down from 51,000 the previous October.