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Int’l students sour on Australia due to treatment during Covid-19

Thousands of international students and temporary migrants are souring on Australia as they experience exclusion and racism, and increasingly cannot pay for food and basic living needs, according to a new report.

More than half of survey respondents believe their financial stress will deepen by year’s end. Photo: Pexels

One in three international students forecast their funds will run out by October

Three in five said they are less likely to recommend Australia as a place for study and travel based on their treatment during the pandemic.

“Many reported that because of their Asian appearance they were punched, hit, kicked, shoved”

A nationwide survey of 6,105 international students and other temporary migrants conducted in July has found 70% lost all or most of their work during the pandemic, while thousands have been left unable to pay for food and rent.

A report from UNSW Law Associate professor Bassina Farbenblum and UTS Law Associate professor Laurie Berg – co-directors of the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative – revealed more than half of survey respondents (57%) believe their financial stress will deepen by year’s end.

One in three international students said they forecast their funds will run out by October.

Thousands also expressed anguish and anger over the federal government’s decision to exclude temporary migrants from JobKeeper and JobSeeker support.

According to the report, hundreds linked their distress to the prime minister’s message that those unable to support themselves should “make [their] way home”.

“They expressed feelings of abandonment and worthlessness: “like we do not exist”, “they don’t see us. They can’t hear us”,” noted the report.

In addition, a quarter experienced verbal racist abuse and a quarter reported people avoiding them because of their appearance. More than half of Chinese respondents reported experiencing either or both of these.

“Over 1,600 participants described being targeted with xenophobic slurs, treated as though they were infected with Covid-19 because they looked Asian, or harassed for wearing a face mask”, said Farbenblum.

“Many reported that because of their Asian appearance they were punched, hit, kicked, shoved, deliberately spat at or coughed on by passers-by in the street and on public transport.”

One female Vietnamese student respondent explained that people used racist language towards her.

“[They] pushed me, saying that I was the reason for Covid and I should go away,” she explained, while a Chinese student said they had eggs thrown at them on their way home from school.

Following their pandemic experience, three in five international students, graduates and working holidaymakers said they are now less likely or much less likely to recommend Australia as a place to study or have a working holiday.

This includes important education markets such as Chinese and Nepalese students (76% and 69% respectively) who said they were now less likely to recommend Australia.

“I feel [the] Australian government doesn’t think of temporary visa holders as human beings but merely a money-making machine,” said one female Indian international student.

“I feel [the] Australian government doesn’t think of temporary visa holders as human beings”

“It’s appalling to see the PM consoling the citizens saying that we are all in this together but at the same time telling migrants to go back home in a pandemic.”

According to the survey, one in five survey participants (19%) indicated they could not return home because their country’s border was closed.

Another international student observed, “It’s completely hypocritical that we’re important for tax purposes, and in the sense that we contribute billions of dollars to the economy as university fees, but are treated as some breed of untouchables”.

Berg warned that Australia will bear the diplomatic and economic consequences of these policies for decades to come.

“Many of those suffering in Australia now will return home to become leaders in business and politics, holding roles of social influence around the region. Their experiences during this period will not be quickly forgotten,” Berg added

Australia is expected to be one of the hardest-hit countries in the world by the impact of the global pandemic with Universities Australia predicting 21,000 jobs cut and the loss of 30% in income from the sector over the next four years.

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6 Responses to Int’l students sour on Australia due to treatment during Covid-19

  1. Yeah, it’s so true. Thousands of students especially the ones who migrated there just before the COVID-19 pandemics are not getting proper treatment. And many thousands have lost their jobs. Hope the Australian Government will help them.

  2. I would not recommend Australia as a place to study after the treatment I received. I am studying to become a medical doctor at an Australian Uni and listened to the government and went back when they told us to go home. Now I can’t return for mandatory in person training because the borders are closed and they won’t grant exemptions to students. If I’m not allowed back November I have to restart the entire 4 year program. I know the pandemic makes everything harder but all I have to do is compare Australia’s treatment of students and temporary visa holders to Canada and the UK which never closed their borders to those types of visa holders. I hope the Australian government understands the true extent and hardship their policies have caused.

  3. This is the most unreliable govt. They never did what they committed to. First they said that they will bring back the international students in July which was cancelled due to second wave and then SA said there will be a pilot in early September. We are already in 3rd week of September and still no updates and now there is news that before December they are planning to get the pilot done. I think international students are a joke to Australian govt. Countries like UK, USA and Canada are way better even though the number of cases are higher there. They are not understanding that we have to live with this virus coz vaccine will definitely take time. Also they are not even giving a clear statement on international borders leaving thousands of international students and Temporary work visa holders in limbo. That’s the reason I have decided to drop my move to Australia. The government which is being so unfair to its own people (coz of caps on arrival and state borders closure) can’t expect them to be fair to us.

  4. While I can’t excuse my government’s (very cynically political) response, the highlighting of “many reported….they were hit, kicked or shoved” seems wrong.

    The report says 90 (out of 4009) reported violence in their home. So, family or sharemates. In another part, ‘others’ out of “dozens” had been “bumped into”.

    Again, no excusing that racism, but the choice of the quote skews the real (and very serious) messages of the report.

  5. Thank you for bringing this issue up. The article is very correct. I am a temporary visa holder graduated from Australian University, and a Tax-payer but NIL supports from the Australian Government under the COVID-19. My colleagues in the UK. Irland and Canada are treated much more like human-being. I would NEVER recommend Australia for studying and carrier development.

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