Even as Australia is starting to emerge from stay-at-home restrictions and reopening its economy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says they will not be opening the international borders “anytime soon."
Reminding the country that Australia's migration intake is expected to plummet as a direct result of the coronavirus-induced border restrictions, Mr Morrison said, "It is going to be one of the real impacts of the ongoing crisis," during his speech about post-pandemic economic recovery on Tuesday.
“We are looking at net overseas migration falling about 34,000 next year and when you think that the great Professor (Peter) McDonald who set a figure between a 160,000 to 210,000 as to what you need in this country to maintain the GDP per capita growth, then there is obviously a big gap there,” said the prime minister.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison says borders are not opening up "anytime soon"
- "Net migration will continue to fall until border restrictions are lifted," says Abul Rizvi
- "Nearly 80 % of international students are onshore," says Mr Morrison
Net overseas migration numbers take into account how many people enter Australia and stay for more than 12 months, compared to how many people leave the country for the same period.
According to the government forecast, net migration is predicted to fall by about 85 per cent to just 36,000 people in 2020-21, due to the widespread travel bans brought on by the pandemic.
In an interview with SBS Punjabi, former senior Immigration Department official Abul Rizvi said the forecast is not surprising. He added that the net migration would continue to fall until the government decides to open its borders.
“We don’t know when international travel will open up fully. It doesn’t look like any time before the middle of 2021, which means net migration itself will remain low for all of 2021,” said Mr Rizvi.
'Our borders aren’t opening up anytime soon'
Ruling out any change on that front, the prime minister said the government was not planning to lift border restrictions “anytime soon," but added the country will continue its discussions with New Zealand for a trans-Tasman safe travel zone.
“It’s (fall in net overseas migration) going to be one of the real impacts of this crisis because our borders aren’t opening up anytime soon. Sure, we will be working with higher education, but I know 80% of the international students that come to Australia are here.
"I was speaking with Prime Minister Ardern this morning, and we'll continue to have our discussions about the trans-Tasman safe travel zone," said Mr Morrison.
Mr Morrison’s statement comes days after he outlined the three-step roadmap to Australia’s recovery, that opened the door for international students to return to universities as early as July.
“Issues of international students you will notice that it does come into the third step of the plan and that is a possibility and how we will work that through, that will have to be carefully tested,” said Mr Morrison.
Mr Rizvi said while both the government and the universities are eager to bring back the remaining international students to ease financial pressure on the education sector, "none of the stakeholders is thinking about safeguarding the interests of those students."
“If the government starts to bring more overseas students, the questions that have to be asked are, do they have the financial capacity to sustain themselves and if they don’t have the financial capacity, can they get a job that will pay sufficiently to enable them to survive?” he said.
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