covid-19

An Open Letter to Mr Scott Morrison 

4 April 2020

Dear Mr Morrison,

Earlier this week, you made a statement that surprised absolutely no one and was completely in line with the moral fibre and integrity of character you’ve displayed time and time again. You demanded that all international students and working holiday visa-holders who could not continue to support themselves financially kindly get out of your country and go back to wherever they came from.

I have much sympathy for you, sir. I understand that, after having spent all that effort begging us to come here when things were sunny, and filling our laps with sickly-sweet brochures that promised us Australia would welcome us and support us, you are simply too exhausted to be expected to treat us with any sort of decency or fairness. I understand that, despite contributing to a significant portion of your economy as part-time workers, consumers and fee-paying students, we will forever be second-class members of your society. Despite all your top universities relying upon the golden eggs we obediently lay for them every semester, we are just too expendable and insignificant for your administration to spend resources supporting. 

Moreover, you argued that before entering the country, international students are required to show that they have enough funds to support themselves throughout their first year. Fair point, sir. But may I direct your attention towards second, third and fourth year students who have since run out of the money they brought with them? The majority of these students were supporting themselves through part-time or casual jobs, which, for some mysterious reason, they seem to have recently lost. I wonder what is to happen to them. 

What, then, about those who have already spent thousands establishing themselves here, for instance by entering into costly agreements with student accommodation providers? Surely, uprooting their entire lives would be a prohibitive waste of money and time? Oh, wait, of course not. I keep forgetting that all international students come from uber-rich families that have access to the sort of limitless resources that would enable them to leave at a moment’s notice.

Sir, your statement has made clear our value to your administration. To you, we are strictly cash cows that you exploit with gusto before spitting us back. How dare this pandemic force you to treat us with the dignity we deserve as human beings? How dare we complain about losing our jobs and facing trivial problems like starvation, eviction, and an inability to pay the school fees your Shylockian universities continue to demand?

I can’t speak for how your request will affect other international students, Mr Morrison, but I can speak for myself.

Personally, I can’t go back. I can’t go back because my country’s borders are closed. Even if they were open, and I did risk my health by taking a 12+ hour flight that would force me into close contact with hundreds of others in airports and airplanes, the current situation would require me to spend two weeks in government quarantine after landing. This would disrupt my studies in a way I simply cannot risk. For my university, Australia’s Number One University (as the signs they’ve spray-painted all over campus remind us), has decided to let this semester make its merry way forwards as though we were not in the middle of a global pandemic. Consequently, I have an ever-accumulating pile of lectures to watch, assignments to do and a WAM to obsess over, all while the apocalypse rages on outside.

The university has also refused to provide me with a discount for a single cent I paid, despite providing me with a quality of education that is obviously inferior to what was agreed upon. So, if I do not do well this semester, I might as well have saved up on what little toilet paper I had by using the thousands of dollars I paid in tuition fees instead. 

Mr Morrison, someday, this pandemic will end, and we will go from being liabilities to assets. Then, you will go back to welcoming international students to this loving, supportive, multicultural country. When that day comes, we will not forget how you treated us during the COVID-19 crisis. We will not forget that when we lost our jobs and stopped enriching your economy, you told us to get out. We will not forget that, when the time came for you to put your money where your mouth was, you would rather let us starve than support us.

Sir, this is an unprecedented time during which we are all struggling — especially international students, whom this crisis has placed in an intensely vulnerable position. I worry that your comments might worsen the xenophobia many of us have already experienced. I also hope that you reflect upon the power your remarks have, and use them to show us more empathy. 

Yours sincerely,

John Smith (3) 

“Llegada de Scott Morrison, primer ministro de Australia” by G20 Argentina is licensed under CC BY 2.0 


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