Support international students in B​.​C. amid COVID-19

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is escalating at an unprecedented rate. The borders are being shut down, and there are now over 70,000 cases across Canada, and over 5000 recorded deaths.

Amid the contagion, hundreds of thousands of international students across Canada are left vulnerable. While the Federal and B.C. governments have announced a stimulus package to support citizens, it is silent on assistance and funding for more than 155,000 international students in the province.

Most of us who work part-time in the hospitality, tourism, retail, and food industries are facing massive job losses with the pandemic causing disastrous effects on the economy. A number of international students have reported being let go from their jobs of only 20 hours a week, while still needing to pay for their tuition fees, their rent, their food, and especially for B.C., their own healthcare.

There are more than 570,000 study permit holders in Canada, and, in 2018, international students in Canada contributed an estimated $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supported almost 170,000 jobs for Canada’s middle class.

International students who come to Canada with a dream of making it here are in a dire situation. With the country being shut down, they face further uncertainty and isolation.

We have little or no access to basic and medical services, no access to childcare, and no support network. International students are losing their jobs, and worse, they are now barred from getting their families here, and those who have left for spring break are no longer allowed entry.

We appeal to the Federal and Provincial governments to take action now and support us, regardless of our immigration status. We want a strong, definite plan of support in terms of the following:

  1. Financial aid and temporary relief plan for thousands of students losing their jobs     UPDATE APR 22, 2020 UPDATE APR 13, 2020 — Comprehensive list of coronavirus financial supports that international students may also be eligible for.    UPDATE MAR 26, 2020 — Canada's Covid-19 Economic Response Plan. International students and temporary foreign workers may be able to access financial aid through these new support streams. 
    UPDATE MAR 31, 2020 — COVID-19 Emergency Bursary fund: The University of Victoria has created the COVID-19 Emergency Bursary to support all students—domestic or international, undergraduate or graduate—who are experiencing financial need as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Increased hours for international students working in sectors stated above (as Australia has done); we should be allowed to work to support ourselves UPDATE APR 22, 2020
  3. Cancellation and reimbursement of medical insurance premiums
  4. Reentry for students who have left Canada for their spring break  UPDATE MAR 26, 2020 — Travel exemptions IN PLACE Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada post update. 

  5. Reunification with immediate family members flying from outside Canada  

    UPDATE MAR 26, 2020 — Travel exemptions IN PLACE. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada post update.

We are suffering the same misfortune as everyone in the country but we feel very much alone.

We believe we deserve this support regardless of our immigration status.

We are here, we want to stay and be committed citizens of Canada. This is our home now too. 

This plea is being made on behalf of staff, volunteers, and the wider membership of the Here Magazine organisation, a not-for-profit supporting newcomers and immigrants to Canada.