If Australia reopens its international borders later this year as planned, priority would be given to the return of Australian citizens and permanent residents, followed by the gradual return of skilled migrants and international students, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during a virtual press conference with Indian media.
SBS Punjabi reported that PM Morrison emphasized that once the borders reopen, the return of three key cohorts is expected to take place, adding that tourists, on the other hand, will not be allowed to travel to the country this year.
“Having a vaccinated population particularly when we hit 80 per cent that means Australia will be able to open up, begin opening up to international travel again and there are three priorities; the first one is, of course, for Australians around the world to be able to come home if they are vaccinated and not be subject to any caps at our airports,” he said.
According to him, the government will be committed to the return of tourists sometime next year, as Australian residents and citizens, skilled migrants as well as international students are current priorities.
“I think they are our priorities, and then next year, I think we will be able to move to that (tourists returning). I hope we can, but we have just got to take this one step at a time,” PM Morrison added.
During the conference, he said that the vaccination rates in India are encouraging, also described their vaccine as a very good one and pointed out that the current situation in India paves the way for opportunities over the next year.
He said that he hopes to see Australian citizens and residents vaccinated in a state that has moved into Phase C – 80 percent vaccination, being able to travel to and from India this year.
In an interview with Erudera, New Generation Network Scholar in Education at the University of Melbourne, Andrew Deuchar said that Australia should reopen its international borders most immediately, adding that they don’t need to be reopened to everyone but at least to fully vaccinated international students who are enrolled in a course by a recognized provider and who complete two weeks of hotel quarantine.
With their return, Deuchar said that it is also important to know how international students will be supported after they arrive in Australia.
“In my view, the educational institutions that are able to most effectively support international students – and deliver a world class education – will be the ones that are most attractive to international students going forward,” he said.
Thousands of international students stranded abroad have been banned from entering Australia since March 20, 2020, when the country closed its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By the end of 2021, hundreds of international students will be able to return to New South Wales, while the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment has reiterated that more international students will return gradually to Australia with small phased programs “potentially commencing in late 2021 and progressively increasing in 2022.”