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Cabinet provides no timeline for int’l student return to Australia

There is disappointment for international students as the Australian government once again failed to provide any timeframe for when they will be allowed back into the country.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has not mentioned an anticipated date for international students to return to the country. Photo: Wikimedia

The country will increase its cap on international arrivals from mid-February from around 4,100 back up to 6,300

Currently around 30% – approximately 164,000 – of Australia’s 542,106 student visa holders are stuck outside the country.

The national cabinet meeting between state and federal leaders held on February 5 was expected to discuss a range of Covid-related travel and vaccine measures, including proposed plans to bring back international students.

“We must remember that our borders are actually shut. No one can just come to Australia”

However following the meeting prime minister Scott Morrison made no mention of international students or any anticipated return dates. He did announce the country will increase its cap on international arrivals from mid-February from around 4,100 back up to 6,300 and expand the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory to hold more international arrivals for the mandatory 14 day quarantine period.

That facility had previously been used in the country’s only pilot program to return international students to university, run by Charles Darwin University.

However Morrison confirmed it will now be used to house Australian citizens who are being brought in on federal government repatriation flights, with those arrivals not being counted under the caps.

It was hoped there would be specific news on state and federal plans to open places up to international students, however Morrison reiterated the 40,000 Australians stranded overseas remain the top priority.

“It was agreed once again that the return of Australian residents is the priority in terms of arrivals to Australia. We must remember that our borders are actually shut. No one can just come to Australia,” he said.

“To be able to come to Australia you need to be an Australian resident or citizen or have a particular exemption in a particular occupation or something of that nature which is handled through Border Force to enable someone to come. And that is only a small proportion of the arrivals that come to Australia.”

In the lead up to the meeting key representatives for the sector, including the IEAA lobbied the federal government to provide an indicative return date for international students to Australia, while almost 17,000 students have signed a petition asking for exemptions from the travel ban, calling it a human rights issue.

IEAA’s Phil Honeywood said the outcome of the meeting was disappointing to say the least, and it’s now time to change focus.

“In the absence of any national leadership for the return of international students we are now focused on individual premiers support in returning students to particular states,” he said.

Respective states are technically responsible for developing plans to bring students back, however final approval lies with the federal government.

NSW, which hosts the largest number of international students, discussed a plan late last year to use one third of its hotel quarantine spots however last month premier Gladys Berejiklian shelved that proposal following local outbreaks of Covid-19.

Victorian students saw a glimmer of hope in January with reports premier Daniel Andrews was preparing a detailed plan to pitch to the federal government however just a week later Andrews conceded there was little prospect of bringing back any significant number of students this year.

“We keep on being told by federal government ministers that we have to get the support of the individual states”

South Australia and ACT continue to work on plans to fly back overseas students however the federal government is yet to sign off, and the NT which is the only state to have brought back international students says it is still waiting for government approval for its plans for further flights.

“The prime minister keeps saying that he doesn’t control quarantine,” said Honeywood.

“We keep on being told by federal government ministers that we have to get the support of the individual states premiers and state chief medical officers.

“Well, OK, that’s what we’ve been told to do then if we achieve that, as with the Northern Territory, then prime minister will say ‘it’s got nothing to do with you’. [Turns out…] the federal government is all powerful after all.

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9 Responses to Cabinet provides no timeline for int’l student return to Australia

  1. This is a catastrophe for International students who already received their visa. Statement ” No one can just come to Australia” has touched me hard. I think from past few decades Australia has also one income reliability factor from International Students. These students has already invested their finances to Australian Govt. and as a responsibility Australian Govt. should see this matter being flexible and allowing them to enter Australia using safety measures.

  2. Sir, Kindly think about international students as well, Due to this pandemic time they are depressed as for nearly 10/11 months (one year), they are paying huge amounts of money as university fees whilst studying locked up in their rooms in respective countries, restricted to just a laptop in their rooms. which causes them to have a very bad mentality. for all students including Australians students or international students wish is to have onsite university studies.
    So as giving priority to Australians think about these more depressed international students who are waiting to fly back to Australia awaiting for a new life at least in February/March 2021 try to bring them back to your wonderful country to start their new semester in a better mind set.
    According to the strict rule such as all incoming students are required to undergo two-week mandatory quarantine process etc. (cost will bare by the students). kindly give the best to bring back the international students in charter flights etc.
    kindly pay the attention .

  3. Its high time now.
    By giving no relief to international students australia is losing its dignity of being the most preferred country by international students.
    When international students are ready to undergo 14 day quarantine and obey any rules made by australian government , it is their responsibilty to allow us to come to australia. Australia is taking away the money from us granting the visa taking the complete health cover but not allowing us to the country this is unacceptable.
    Also in many countries like India ,USA, China
    vaccination has been started
    and they are having good results of it
    Atleast australia should think of allowing those students who are being vaccinated.
    But this kind of behaviour by them that is not even talking about international students in the meeting is rediculous and not acceptable.

  4. Hopeless situation, all those statements from Australian leaders as to how important international students are … now gone down the drain.

  5. Little by little, international students are starting to weigh their options. I studied foundation studies in Eynesbury online throughout because I couldn’t get into Australia. It’s saddening because I’m also about to start UniSA studies but I’m still stuck in my home country. Online studies is not easy at all, just incase you didn’t know. The time difference between Australia and my home country is so large that I always have my lectures at midnight, when I’m supposed to be sleeping. I’ve gotten sick thousands of times due to this. The fact that the prime minister doesn’t even wants to reason what’s going through the heads of we students is sad. One of my classmates has left Australia and applied for Uni in the UK instead. Because atleast, UK are letting their students in. Every country was affected by Covid, not just Australia. What you guys are doing is WRONG.

  6. Sorry for your stress and illness. For some students, it is mental trauma. However, the choice is between dead old people and mental health problems.

    It is unfair, but the only way we get Covid is through international arrivals (1 or 2, every 3 or 4 weeks). Sadly, even vaccinated people can carry Covid.

    So, international students have to wait again. 2022 is the best guess by anyone.

  7. Sir plz let us back to australiya . Kindly think about international students . Those are waiting continuously last 6 month nd 1 year . Kindly

  8. International students are now just devastated so as soon as possible Australian government should allow them back.

  9. I think this is the best decision by Australian government. First Aussie citizens should be allowed to come back. When you are applying for studies, you are agreeing to pay the fees, moreover have shown funds to support yourself. Students will still get their degrees, which is the only thing they should get or care about.

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