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PM Scott Morrison says return of international students to Australia is now a 'possibility'

Source: Getty Images

The Australian government has announced that it will consider lifting border restrictions for international students as part of 'Step Three' of the government's 'Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia'.

In some good news for hundreds of thousands of international students stuck offshore, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that their return is now a “possibility.”

He said the government will consider lifting the border restrictions for overseas students as part of stage three of the framework to ease coronavirus restrictions.


Highlights:

  • Australia to consider allowing international students back into the country
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison says their return is now a “possibility.”
  • Universities claim they are in talks with the government to work out a plan

“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,” Mr Morrison said during a press conference earlier today.

He added that while he is open to the idea of allowing international students back into the country, the process would be carried out with compliance to "strict quarantine restrictions."

"How that’s done and how those costs are met so there a lot of steps to work through,” said the prime minister.

While Mr Morrison did not outline a timeline for the three stages. He, however, said they aim to move through all three stages by the month of July.

“It's our aspiration as agreed among premiers and chief ministers, in July, we would have moved through these three steps through the country,” said Mr Morrison.

'Our future is at stake'

But for Prabhjot Singh, an IT student stranded in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, who works as a part-time personal care assistant at an aged care in Melbourne, the news is not entirely hopeful.

studnet
Prabhjot Singh is an IT student in Melbourne who is desperate to return to Australia.
Supplied

As one of more than 700,000 international students enrolled in Australian institutions last year, Mr Singh said studying in Australia was a stepping stone to a bright future. 

“Now everything is just looming in uncertainty. While it’s a respite to hear that Australia has finally put us in their plans, the government still hasn’t declared when exactly they would let us travel, which to be honest is my primary concern,” said Mr Singh.

The 21-year-old student who has been preparing a list of international students stuck in India claims he has details of more than 200 students who are desperate to return to Australia to resume their education.

“I have noted down details of 203 students stuck in various parts of India. And I am quite sure there are many others out there waiting for the borders to reopen.

“The government must understand that our future is at stake,” he added.

As the coronavirus outbreak started to affect normal lives in Australia, universities were forced to shut down their campuses and switch to remote learning, adapting rapidly as they endured billions in losses in international student revenue.

Now, they too are keen to allow them back on to the campuses and are developing plans in collaboration with the government to allow their return in a phased manner.

“We’re in discussions with both federal and state government representatives on a range of matters related to this challenging situation and are planning for different scenarios as we consider a return to face-to-face teaching, learning and working,” said a spokesperson for the University of Sydney.

 

international students
Representational image.
Getty Images

International students in Australia contribute more than just the fees they pay to the universities. They also spend money, support critical sector jobs and generate income in the broader economy.

Recognising their contribution, Victoria University said it would welcome initiatives that may support their return to the country.

“International students contribute significantly to the educational and cultural experiences on our campuses and we would welcome initiatives that may support their travel to Australia,” said a VU spokesperson.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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