Greens Senator and spokersperson for education, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, called for the inclusion of international students in income support and the coronavirus supplement.
Senator Faruqi said:
“With the stroke of a pen, the minister could give international students the same income support and coronavirus supplement as their local peers.
“I’m calling on the Minister to do exactly that to make sure no international student in Australia is left hungry or homeless by this crisis.
“International students pay high fees, they work and contribute billions to our economy and society. We can’t just use them as cash cows when it benefits us and then leave them high and dry in this hour of desperate need.
“I’ve been hearing incredibly concerning stories from students, their unions and concerned university staff about students who are extremely anxious about not being able to pay rent or bills. Some are vulnerable because they are living in overcrowded accommodation which is the only housing they can afford.
“Despite facing the same hardships as other students on top of being far from home, international students are not eligible for income support payments and haven’t been included in the Government’s coronavirus package.
“The Government’s decision to include local students in the coronavirus supplement after pressure from the Greens and students is very welcome, but leaves tens of thousands of international students who are still here at extreme risk.
“With existing restrictions on their working hours, international students rely on casual work to pay rent, put food on the table and survive. That work is disappearing and, without income support, many international students face eviction and poverty.
“We know international students are already particularly vulnerable to exploitation by rotten landlords and bosses. Surveys have found that around a quarter of students are paid just half the minimum hourly wage and half are paid in cash. I am very concerned that they are at huge risk of further exploitation at a time they will be most vulnerable.
“We have a responsibility to make sure no one is left behind in this crisis and that means supporting the students who have come to Australia."