Australia

'Time to go home': Australian government's message to some temporary visa holders

The Australian Federation of International Students' Olena Nguyen. Source: Supplied

The Australian Federation of International Students says the Australian government's plan to allow temporary visa holders to draw on their superannuation funds fails to provide international students the support they need.

The Australian government says more than two million temporary visa holders in Australia should "go home" as quickly as possible, as the coronavirus pandemic causes unemployment and a sharp economic downturn.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said the expectation had always been that temporary visa holders would be able to support themselves and not rely on government support while in Australia.

"Temporary visa holders who are unable to support themselves under these arrangements over the next six months are strongly encouraged to return home," Mr Tudge said in a statement.

"For these individuals it’s time to go home, and they should make arrangements as quickly as possible."

Mr Tudge also announced that international students will be able to access their Australian superannuation savings to get them through the crisis, as well as allowing them to work an additional 20 hours a week as previously announced.

Victoria University social work student Olena Nguyen from the Australian Federation of International Students said she doubted whether accessing superannuation would be enough to get international students by, noting that many had very low superannuation balances due to being in the country for a short period of time and work hour limits.

"I'm not sure if it's enough for international students. During this time, international students are the most vulnerable ones and we need support," she told SBS News.

She called on universities to offer fee reductions and refunds to international students who had already paid full fees, and for students to be granted access to welfare during the crisis.

She also said international students should be able to see a doctor for free if they get sick with the COVID-19 virus.

Mr Tudge said the federal government was in discussions with the university sector about them providing some fee relief.

"The Government will undertake further engagement with the international education sector who already provide some financial support for international students facing hardship.

For example, we understand there are some education providers that are providing fee discounts to international students."

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