Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews addressed the plight of international students, temporary visa holders and Australian citizens and permanent residents who are unable to return to their lives and loved ones due to the coronavirus-induced travel restrictions.
Hundreds of work visa holders, international students and bridging visa holders who were on a visit to India when the border closed have been anxiously waiting for an opportunity to return to their work and lives in Australia.
But those who call Melbourne home are slowly losing hope of returning this year, as the state continues to reel under the second wave of COVID-19 infections, the impact of which is being felt in all jurisdictions, who have clamped their borders with Victoria to avoid the contagion.
- Mr Andrews has addressed the plight of international students, temporary visa holders, Australian citizens and permanent residents
- "You are welcome and an important part of Victoria," Daniel Andrews tells temporary visa holders stuck in India
- International students will be brought back once it is safe to do so: Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews
During a multicultural media press conference with Premier Daniel Andrews earlier today, SBS Punjabi raised the plight of Victoria’s temporary visa holders stranded in India as the federal government remains firm on its stand on international borders.
In a heartfelt message for those who have been separated from their families, Mr Andrews said the ultimate message for them is that "you are welcome and an important part of Victoria.”
“These matters are largely federal, but we acknowledge the pain and the grief of being separated from loved ones. It is very-very challenging. My message is one of sadness, I am troubled and very hurt that this pandemic means that they are separated,” he said.
Reiterating his views on the migration policy, Mr Andrews added that he believes in a policy that supports family reunion and the one that is inclusive and bigger.
“I made some comments going back a couple of years ago now, my support for families being together, our support for a migration policy that is bigger rather than smaller, one that is about giving people a chance to play their part in building a stronger Victoria,” he added.
When will international students return to Victoria?
Nearly 120,000 international students are currently stranded offshore due to the pandemic of which at least 6,600 are stuck in India, a majority of whom study in universities and other educational institutes in Victoria.
On being questioned when it would be likely for Victoria to bring them back, Mr Andrews said he is hopeful that the state will be able to do so “as soon as it is safe.”
“I think we can resume some international education at the appropriate time, but it needs to be done carefully and gradually, but again that’s captive to the second wave also. Until we have that under control, we simply won’t be able to have people come in here,” he said.
The Premier said he is keen to have international education up and running as overseas students are critical for Victoria’s relationship with India and the rest of the world.
“I am hopeful if we can resume that as soon as it is safe because we know how important that is not just for jobs and the economy, but it is critically important to our relationship with the world.
“Those friendships and partnerships that are forged by studying, with India, - they have always served us and are very important to me and it's very challenging and confronting not to have that sector up and running,” he said.
When will international flights start flying into Melbourne?
Since mid-July, the Victoria Government has imposed a ban on all inbound international flights landing into Melbourne until at least October 24, to ease pressure on the state’s quarantine system.
Acknowledging that the ban has further strained the efforts of Australians striving to return home, Mr Andrews said the state will only start accepting flights once it is past the stage 4 restrictions and the second wave.
“No one is comfortable with the notion of people wanting to come home and not being able to do so. The flights are still going into Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane. Quarantine is done there and then they come to Melbourne afterwards. That’s challenging I know.
“But we will get that resumed as soon as we can, but it can only be done and once we have passed the second wave just tor the resources really,” he said.
Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 8 pm and 5 am.
The only reasons for Melbourne residents to leave home during these hours are for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative.
The full list of restrictions can be found here.
All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus