International students in crisis amid COVID-19

On 31 March, Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) wrote to key federal, state and local government representatives in relation to the significant impact COVID-19 is having on Australia’s international student community.

RLC is calling for urgent measures to avoid a humanitarian crisis by addressing the serious vulnerabilities within this community, which are being magnified by the current health crisis.

RLC’s International Student Legal Service NSW (ISLS) is seeing an increase in international students facing a multitude of severe issues including, financial hardship, employment issues, evictions, accommodation disputes and homelessness, health issues, problems with education providers, visa problems and psychological trauma.

Our concern is that that already-existing vulnerabilities experienced by international students are being compounded and exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and current travel restrictions.

These measures are vitally important, and we understand that preliminary steps have been taken by government to provide assistance to international students during the crisis.

However, we remain concerned that international students facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic are unable to access crisis payments, unlike their domestic counterparts who can access Youth Allowance, Austudy or Abstudy, all of which now include the coronavirus supplement.

“Around half the requests for help our statewide legal service currently receives relate to flow-on effects of the COVID-19 crisis," RLC international student solicitor Sean Stimson said.

"Many international students are telling us that they cannot afford to pay bills or buy food. These are students who have paid thousands of dollars upfront for a course which they may no longer be able to complete, whilst also being left unable to work, or return home.”

RLC is urging federal, state and local government representatives to consider the urgent needs of international students for financial support during the health crisis.

Download RLC’s letter