International students will not benefit from government-facilitated flights with Qantas Airways despite receiving inbound exemptions to travel to Australia as well as having valid visas.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), only Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate families are eligible for government-facilitated commercial flights from India, Erudera.com reports.
The research student Rishi Ravindra Naik, who has won a scholarship to pursue PhD studies in food science and technology at the University of New South Wales, told SBS Punjabi that he needed several months to receive an exemption, yet he is not allowed to book a government-facilitated flight.
“Any passenger who is not an Australian citizen or permanent resident will require a valid visa, and an exemption to the travel ban, to board these flights,” Qantas airline posted on its website.
Following this statement from Qantas and DFAT sending emails on the other hand that only Australian citizens and permanent residents, including their immediate families, are eligible for a seat on government-facilitated flights from India, Naik said that temporary visa holders are confused as they have been receiving flight codes among others.
“Over 678,000 Australians have arrived in Australia since the Government recommended that people reconsider the need to travel abroad,” a DFAT spokesperson told SBS Punjabi.
Ever since the pandemic erupted, more than 10,000 Australians from India have returned to the country on 63 government-facilitated commercial flights, whereas Australia removed India from its list of high-risk countries on August 10, withdrawing inbound and outbound travel restrictions.
According to the latest estimates of the Mitchell Institute, revenues at Australian universities dropped by 6 percent in 2020, mainly due to a decrease in international student income amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the findings, Mitchell Institute education policy fellow Peter Hurley said that the drop shows the importance of international students for Australian universities. Hurley pointed out that universities in Australia would rapidly recover if international students manage to enroll; nevertheless, he added that the downturn will continue if Australia keeps its international borders closed.
Australia closed its borders in March 2020, and since then, the country has tried to bring back international students under pilot programs, but many states had to pause their plans due to lockdowns. Nevertheless, the Australian Education Minister Alan Tudge had said that despite lockdowns in several states, Australia is making huge efforts to launch student pilot plans again in a bid to return students to the country.
Currently, there are nearly 303,000 international students in Australia, a 48 percent decrease from November 2019, while 150,000 student visa holders remain abroad.