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India ask Australia to end pandemic travel curbs for students

/ 11:25 AM September 12, 2021
sydney

 A lone woman, wearing a protective face mask, walks across an unusually quiet city centre bridge as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

NEW DELHI — India’s foreign minister urged Australia on Saturday to ease coronavirus travel restrictions for thousands of students who have been unable to get into the country since the pandemic started 18 months ago.

India sends tens of thousands of students to top international universities worldwide with Australia among the key destinations.

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Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he raised the issue “in some detail” with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne alongside talks between defense ministers from both countries dominated by Afghanistan.

“We have heard a lot from the students and I think their frustrations, their feelings, are completely understandable,” Jaishankar told reporters.

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“Many of them would like to be at the institutions where they want to study,” adding students were “a very high priority” for his government, which has also faced hurdles with the US and Canada.

“We have been having some problems with some other countries as well. We had initially with the US, we are still having some issues with Canada,” he added.

India also made approaches to Britain before it eased travel restrictions.

And videos of Indian medical students enrolled in China went viral recently as they pleaded with the government to help them return to their universities.

University education is now a multi-billion dollar industry and Australia is one of several countries to have aggressively campaigned to attract Indian students.

“I am one of the most enthusiastic proponents of welcoming back our much-loved Indian students back to the Australian education system as soon as it is possible for us,” Payne said at a press conference alongside Jaishankar.

She added that there were around 60,000 Indians currently studying in Australia.

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“The Covid restrictions have impacted travel to and from Australia, not just the students that you have raised but for Australians themselves,” she said.

But Payne stressed that higher vaccination levels of Australians were required to “give us the confidence to begin a sort of reopening” that will enable students to return.

“I look forward to being one of the people at the airport to welcome the first arrivals of Indian students coming back.”

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TAGS: Australia, COVID-19, Education, Health, India, travel ban
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