COVID19: Humanitarian and financial support needed for international students in Australia

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In light of the ongoing global crisis caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, citizens and permanent residents are receiving every possible support and assistance from the Australian government. Yet, a huge section of the population remains to be deprived of equal attention – International students.
Australia is known to be one of the most favourable and friendly countries for international students. According to the Department of Education, the number of international students commencing studies in Australia has gone up from 553,057 in 2016 to 758,154 up till 2019. January 2020 alone saw the addition of 517,519 international students, with the highest number of students migrating to Victoria and New South Wales as 168,800 and 199,800 respectively.
There seems to be no attention and acknowledgement of the challenges faced by the international students in the country. Especially the ones that have arrived recently (Jan-Mar 2020). Most of the Australian universities are switching to online/recorded lectures for students’ safety. It is highly appreciated and need of the hour. And, we are all in this together.
Let’s think about International students. They have paid a massive amount of fees as compared to the local students to get the world-class education experience and problem-solving environment. They are also bearing a high cost of living. And, nevertheless, students are facing difficult times surviving with supermarkets running out of the stocks. Adding all these issues together, let’s think about mental health issues among international students. Some students are required to self-isolate and it’s getting really difficult to manage everything because they’re staying away from their families. The decision made by the government allowing international students to work for more hours is shocking. They expect international students to risk their health/lives by working more and in return there’s no support and attention whatsoever.
Let’s ponder upon another shocking situation. As we know, Australia last month implemented a total direct travel ban from China. More than 106,000 international students from China were stuck. It was recently revealed that 32,000 Chinese students had circumvented this ban, at a rate of around 1,000 arrivals a day, by travelling to third countries like Thailand and Dubai. They spent 14 days in purported ‘self-isolation’ before travelling into Australia. This circumvention of the travel ban was aided and abetted by several universities, which offered grants of up to $7,500 to Chinese students to help fund travel packages to third-country transit destinations. Australian government kept a blind eye to risk other countries for its financial benefit. What a shame!
Nobody is to be blamed, but times like this require a humanitarian approach where everyone is treated equally.
We demand following immediate actions from the Australian Universities and Australian Government for the duration of this pandemic:

  • Equal fee structure for international and local students should be put into place
  • Access to equal Medicare (bulk billing) services to international students
  • Access to Mental Health counselling services for international students
  • Access to any emergency financial support system

In the long run, the following actions are required from the Australian Government to support international students:

  • Charge little extra for the OSHC health insurance but provide equal access to Medicare facility similar to permanent resident and Australian citizens. In its current form, we are isolated to limited services. And most students do not use it at all. Hence a total waste of money in its current form.
  • Offer public transport discount to postgraduate international students as well. Coming from overseas after paying high fees and cost of living in Australia, small support with public transport discount (similar to graduate students) would bring a big difference in the student’s life.

If the above immediate actions are not taken, international students would be left with the following options:

  • Suffer due to isolation and lack of jobs in tough times
  • Defer current semester and resume studies from the next semester
  • Withdraw from the course altogether and enrol into online degree courses from anywhere else in the world

We expect empathy from all. And any support/attention to international students in the current situation would be highly appreciated. Please sign this petition to show your support.