When will the Australian Border Open for International Students?

Raju Manandhar
An editor at Nepalese Australian

“When,” we all tend to chorus in unison, “Will the Australian borders reopen? Is it before 2021 is out?”

When will the Australian Border Open for International Students?

Apparently, it is a clichébut true that it concerns all of us in one way or another as significant numbers of Nepalese international students studying in Australia have been stranded in Nepal for more than one year and a quarter. Many believe that the reopening of Australia’s border is shrouded in mystery. It has been nearly a year and half since Australia’s rolling coronavirus lockdowns began and it seems to continue for some more time.

The Travelling of COVID-19 all over the World Restricted the Travelling of Human Beings

Except Australian citizens and permanent residents, none can travel to Australia as Australia’s borders are closed. What will be the fate of the international students stranded in Nepal? At this stage, no one can say anything about their fate.

Australia’s border has been closed to overseas visitors included the international students who failed to enter Australia since March last year, and authorities have consistently described that decision as a key part of the Government’s pandemic response.

The initiative to bring international students back to Australia in the pandemic in November 2020 when 63 students successfully returned to study in the Northern Territoryaroused great enthusiasm.

This encouraging step convinced the other states’overseas students that their return plan also will be approved soon.

All concerned were very excited when South Australia announced that it will accommodate up to 160 international students at a time in a new quarantine hub in Adelaide as it was approved by the Australian government. Hopefully, it would be operational very soon as it was expected to come into effect around mid-2021. This also gave the promising signal that safe arrival plan for international students will be approved in all states including NSW, where the greatest numbers of international students from Nepal live.

Growing Frustration at Continued Border Closures for International Students

The persistence in self-doubt and sad feeling pushes a man in the fathomless depth of depression. They worry about their problems such visa status,graduation, optional practical training opportunitieswhich they may have to cancel due to border closing.

Aarati Lama, a Nepalese International Student in Australia who went to Nepal in 2020 just before the closure of border for the international students said, “Though there are no clear cases of depression, it is guessed that there are some common signs and symptoms of depression in the international students who have been stranded in Nepal because of the border closure in Australia. With the right support from the loving family and friends many international students are able to maintain good mental health. Roughly 1700 Nepalese International Students who have been stranded in Nepal are hoping against hope that the Australian government would soon find the way out.”

She added, “We ardently hope that we can enter Australia to resume our study and see very good college mates and colleagues in Australia.Sooner than later non-essential travel will be changed into essential travel. We strongly believe the Australian government will allow all international students who have been vaccinated to return to Australia with reasonable quarantine.”

Australian Government’s Plan to Bring back the International Students

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has remained committed to reserving Australia’s quarantine facilities for Australians returning home and will not allocate space in such facilities for international students until at least the end of April.It is said that the students cannot complete mandatory quarantine in after flying into Australia.He said universities can work with states to bring international students to Australia and he has always encouraged universities to put forward a proposal on getting them back into Australia.

Prime Minister Morrison said, “The reopening of international borders is something that is very hard, very, very hard for us to put a sort of finite position on. The pandemic is worse now than it was a year ago. Australia has been successful because we’ve run a successful border control policy, and I’m not about to put that at risk at a time when COVID is now going to rage through the developing world.”

Regarding the return plan of the international students Prime Minister Morrison said, “The universities have much to gain from doing this, and I’ve always encouraged them to come forward and, put forward proposals that would enable them to be able to see some students come into Australia. And I think that is achievable.It’s not all going to happen in one go. But we do have state governments in the country who are willing to engage.”

In early May,regarding the issue Morrison said that the return of the international students stuck offshore to Australia has become a possibility. He said the government will consider lifting the border restrictions for overseas students as part of stage three of the framework to ease coronavirus restrictions.He added that while he was open to the idea of allowing international students back into the country, the process would be carried out with compliance to strict quarantine restrictions.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted on 8 May 2021– Our 3 step roadmap to a COVID safe Australia with our aim to get through these steps and get Australia working again in July this year. States and territories will set their own pace and decide the timings for each step.

On 12 May, he stated that his government’s immediate priority is to suppress the coronavirus spread in the country and safeguard Australians, and not opening up borders to new migrants and international students. He added that reopening international borders is not his government’s immediate priority. He encouraged universities to propose a plan on bringing international students back to Australia.

On June 10 NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced a pilot plan to have international students back in the state within the next six to eight weeks.He said NSW Police and NSW Health have signed off on the deal to quarantine students in student accommodation, rather than in hotels. Mr Perrottet said, “At first chartered flights will bring students into Australia, and down the track, they will come on commercial airlines.”

Federal Health Department boss Brendan Murphy believed that International borders could open sooner than expected if Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines prove effective at preventing transmission.

The Health Department Secretary said that reopening the border would be determined by whether a COVID-19 vaccine could stop the virus from spreading or not.

Mr Morrison agreed the opening of borders would be related to the effectiveness of the vaccines in stopping spread of COVID 19 but a definite timeframe for it could not be set.

As NSW is emerging from the current lockdown, Morrison has announced a nationwide plan to hold Australians returning from overseas in hotel for 14 day’s self-isolation to stop spread from the people from which is the biggest source of the cases.

All that we know is that we are surrounded by an air of restlessness and melancholy. Many thoughtful people and intellectuals have expressed this popular culture through different media.

We are truly appreciative of their as ever optimistic and positive expression of inner self and taking time for their meaningful and purposeful reflection in the best interest of the community in general and international students in particular.

Subansh Shah, the Director of Marketing at Australasian International Academy said, “We all have words of uncertainty and anxiety. The situation has been much challenging for us all and understandably, the months ahead will be more challenging for us all. Living away impatiently for a long time from the country where they have their academic prospects may pose mental health challenges.

In this difficult time, we helped and supported one another in the best possible way and the students who have been stranded back in our home country, are unable to come back to Australia to continue their study in a practical way. We hope they come here soon, one and all.”.

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