Stuck Overseas For 20 Months Now- International Students Enrolled At Chinese Unis Ask Govt To Allow Them To Return To China

International students stranded overseas due to travel restrictions imposed to prevent COVID-19 spread have appealed to the Chinese government to give them permission to return to China and continue their higher education.

The country has not allowed international students to return and resume their studies for the past 20 months, reports.

“We are really stressed. We don’t know when they will call us back,” a third-year Indian student at Ningbo University who preferred to have only his surname Ephrem published in order to avoid any misunderstanding by the Chinese authorities, told South China Morning Post.

Ephrem further said that he went to India in January 2020, but could not return to China since then, adding that he has continually contacted the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, but they have not provided him with any official information about when he is allowed to enter China again.

“In the meantime, the Chinese government will make and implement epidemic prevention measures according to the development of the pandemic and on the basis of scientific analysis,” China’s Foreign Ministry told South China Morning Post on Monday.

Through a letter, 20,000 international students have earlier this year asked the United Nations to intervene and facilitate their return to China, pointing out that the lack of access to laboratories and the language barrier is making their situation even worse.

“We are all attending academic institutions in the said countries but, due to the current border restrictions implemented because of Covid-19 concerns, we are unable to pursue our education properly,” the letter reads.

Many international students enrolled at Chinese universities are also concerned about their belongings remaining in dormitories in China after being told that hostels are throwing away their things in order to make space for the incoming students. Students claimed that their belongings left behind also include important documents, electronics, and valuables.

Many of these students who left China last year after the COVID-19 erupted in December 2019, leading to the closure of universities and borders, are from India.

Hence, in June, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) advised Indian students staying in India but who are enrolled at universities worldwide, to contact the overseas Indian Affairs (OIA) office and inform them about the difficulties that they are facing in terms of reaching their universities.

Following that, students wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking assistance to return to China; however, they have not received any response in this regard. 

So far, China has granted visas only to students from South Korea, following the reciprocal agreement reached between two countries last year in July. In the absence of information provided by the competent authorities and universities in China, international students commenced campaigns on Twitter under the hashtag #TakeStudentsBacktoChina.

According to the recent statistics released by China’s Ministry of Education, there were 442,773 international students in China mainland in 2016, with most students coming from United States, South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, and India. 

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