The High Commissioner said that with a strict border policy, Australia was endangering its reputation among Indian students. International students

A senior diplomat says Australia threatens to “destroy” its reputation as a welcome destination for international students if it does not give them hope of when they will return to the country to study. can.

Manpreet Vohra, India’s High Commissioner to Australia, said long travel bans could lead to frustration, uncertainty and anxiety among thousands of students who are unable to travel to Australia, adding that online education is not. Was for which he had signed up. .

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Vohra said he was urging the Australian government to provide a time frame for a safe return from study on campus, so students could have something “waiting”. He said it would be “sad” if students turned to other countries to continue their education.

In an interview, Vohra also revealed that Indian and Australian officials could start talks on a free trade agreement in weeks.

‘Very disappointed’

As of early July, about 15,158,000 student visa holders were out of Australia. That number includes 17,008 students from India, which is currently the second largest student holder outside Australia after China (88,769).

Vohra said the impact of the travel ban on students was “a big issue” for the Indian High Commission, “but first, it is a big problem for the actual students affected by the travel ban.”

“If students continue for a reasonable time, they will understand the restrictions,” he said. He said, “But if they move forward without any determination as to when they are likely to end, it leads to a lot of frustration, it leads to a lot of uncertainty, it leads to anxiety. Is.”

“It’s not good for the students, of course it’s directly affected. It’s probably not good for the overall image of Australia either, which is a great place for Indian students.

Vohra said it would be perfectly reasonable for the Australian government to make rules for students who want to return – such as insisting that they had been fully vaccinated and tested for Covid 19 before leaving. And was in quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

“They signed up for education at your universities here, they kept paying tuition fees. Of course they are studying online, but that’s not really what they signed up for. ۔

“We are asking the Australian Government to consider ways and means to at least give students a time frame from which they can expect to return.”

Australian Education Minister Alan Tudge acknowledged last week that the epidemic was a “particularly challenging time” for many international students, and said they would be welcomed “as soon as possible”.

Tudge said the government is working with universities, states and territories on “plans to repatriate international students”.

Katrina Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, said the universities “understand the plight of international students who are unable to return to Australia to continue or complete their studies”.

“The logistics of remote learning can be difficult, including time zone differences and variable levels of Internet access for students studying abroad,” he said.

Jackson said the current spread of Delta variants in Australia has challenged plans for pilot programs for the safe return of a limited number of international students.

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Vohra said Australia’s federal and state governments and universities have made “tireless efforts” in recent years to improve Australia’s appeal to Indian students, and “regretted seeing it fade”.

Asked if students could move to other countries if travel restrictions were extended until next year, he said: “I feel that could happen. I think it’s a pity. Yes, because Australia has attracted a large number and a large number of Indian students, and I want to continue that.

In late April, the Morrison government announced that anyone who had stayed in India for the past two weeks and tried to return to Australia would face imprisonment and heavy fines amid fears of an increase in the number of cases in the country.

The move – which prompted UN human rights officials to raise “serious concerns” – was postponed to May 15.

Vohra said India understood “why this was done” and respected the Australian government’s decision – but said there were still no direct commercial flights between India and Australia, except for government-run Qantas repatriation flights. of the.

“The advice of the experts should also clearly show that the situation in India has improved a lot and we feel that it is time to allow the resumption of direct airlines,” he said.

Trade talks are about to begin.

Vohra welcomed former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s five-day visit to India last week, which included a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The trip has drawn some domestic political criticism in Australia, as Abbott is still registered as a trade adviser to the British government.

Vohra said India welcomes the growing engagement with Australia and “wants to do more on the trade and investment front”.

“The prospects for starting a free trade agreement are very bright,” he said.

“You can see the negotiators start meeting in the coming weeks and months. And both sides want, as Australia and Australia have shown us, to do this, to do this quickly, to do this well. To do

Vohra, N. Experienced diplomat Arriving in Canberra in April, he said India and Australia have complementary economies and would seek a “balanced” deal. The talks will address the sensitive issue of access to agricultural markets.


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