Thousands of people have signed a parliamentary petition calling on Australia to give travel exemptions to international students and allow them to enter the country to continue their education in-person.

By Friday evening, the petition had received more than 3,600 signatures – the second most of any current petition addressed to the House of Representatives.

“International students suffer terribly from the travel ban,” the petition reads.

“Lots of students do not have online classes and they have to be exempted to enter Australia to [go to] schools as soon as possible.

“Our human rights of attending school are being deprived and leads our family to horrible mental illness. We do not pay our family’s saving[s] for video lessons or rent for [a] house which we cannot even live in.”

Students are willing to “obey any rules and pay all the fees”, as well as quarantine in student apartments so as to not take places in hotel quarantine from returning citizens, the petition says.

Overseas student fees provided $10 billion to Australian universities in 2019 and made up just under a third of all universities’ income, which totalled $36.5 billion.

Amid fresh calls in November to bring back international students, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was pursuing an “Australian-first” approach to international arrivals.

“There is a queue and Australians are at the front of the queue,” he said.

The caps on international arrivals returning to Australia were reduced in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland last week amid concerns about the new UK coronavirus variant.

At the turn of the year, some 38,000 Australians were registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as wanting to return from overseas.

The Northern Territory last month became the first jurisdiction to bring international students back to campus since the border closed at the onset of the pandemic.

Other states have also flagged plans to bring back international students, but some have stalled amid fresh cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Friday showed almost 1,000 people entered Australia from overseas every day in November despite the border closure.

The total of almost 30,000 people included 7,570 short-term overseas arrivals – the most since March – as well as 13,000 resident returns and 8,760 permanent or long-term arrivals.

The impact on universities could be seen in short-term visitor numbers for education purposes, which stood at 150 in November – well below the 38,260 students from a year prior.


Related posts