The very real story of a student stuck abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic

The very real story of a student stuck abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic

Words by Natasha Tupackovski

What did you learn about your government during the pandemic?

Imagine, you’ve just arrived in Barcelona to finish your degree and spice up your 20’s. Centrelink has cut you off, so you plug in your headphones and prepare for hours of elevator music as you make your way from the airport.

Then, the year went straight from tapas to tits up on March 14th when Spain declared a national lockdown and all flights were cancelled.

This is the story of a UQ student who’s been sent to Spain and has been stuck in Europe for six months and counting “due to covid”

“I arrived at the airport and was informed the airline had been grounded for a week. My flight from Barcelona to Adu Dhabi had been cancelled. I had to contact the emergency department in Flight Center and they told me because Spain was in the top 5 highest cases most countries were not accepting flights from Spain. I was told I wouldn’t be able to leave the country for a while,” she tells us.

It was then when they knew they’d have to spend another two hours on hold to Centrelink. Meanwhile, Scomo’s saying people overseas who had not made it home were not his problem. It was essentially their fault and would not be supported by the Australian government.

Unfortunately, Spain was the Melbourne of Europe in July, still on lockdown as the world around them began to open their borders. The Australian Government had ceased to fund the mandatory two weeks stay for all international students arriving in quarantine hotels unless you could prove you’d made a previous attempt to return to Australia.

It’s not as if these people were taking a trip to Hawaii during a crisis, but they are being treated as such. They then capped the number of passengers allowed to enter per week so if you were declared “essential” or were rich enough you’d be approved to be one of the 30-50 passengers allowed on the limited flights, this UQ student didn’t tick the boxes.

August things appeared more promising for this stranded student when the covid test returned negative, but the real negative being a positive pregnancy test. A seat was booked then removed in the space of twenty-four hours after the airline decided it wasn’t worth it. The student had no other option but to move to the UK and get an emergency abortion. Surviving with the help of her boyfriend’s parents, meanwhile, our government insisted she still wasn’t eligible for an emergency flight or funding.

October the nightmare continued, the 31st was the end of their online semester and therefore the financial support from the government. It’s now approaching the end of the year and she has no payment, a pending 2021 flight, and no faith in our government.

“I realised my life and wellbeing was completely dependent on the government, the same government that has taken my rights, freedom of movement, freedom to work and freedom to live. I had no country that was responsible for me, no protection and no human rights.”

Six months into being stranded The University of Queensland still denied assistance. When applying for their finical support she was denied because “she wouldn’t be a student for much longer”.

This is just one of the people who are still left stranded abroad with no income due to the incompetence of our government and their lack of humanity.

This Covid-19 crisis exposed the Australian Government’s financial agenda. Hundreds of international students with hundreds of thousands to spend are being prioritized over starving Australians. We are always being told how lucky we are to be in Australia, I for one was grateful that I have been in Australia during the devastation but I am not proud of what we have to show for it. Australian Immigration is as embarrassing as the American health care system. 

The world is rapidly changing and the question of what has changed “due to covid” has been used for hidden agendas.

When did we start prioritizing money over the well being of our own?