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Covid-19 or corona virus first appeared in China, in December 2019, then spread to more than one hundred countries in the world and infected more than one million people. The virus that attacks the respiratory tract makes the sufferer will experience mild to severe respiratory distress. Various preventive measures have been taken by all countries in the world, such as the prohibition to carry out activities that gather large numbers of people, wash hands frequently, wear masks and social restrictions or social distancing.
Some countries affected by this virus take decisive steps as prevention, ranging from total lock down, a ban on visits and departures, fines, to the repatriation of foreign nationals (foreigners) to their home countries. This is what Australia does. Since 3 April 2020, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrrison has appealed to foreign nationals to leave Australia if they are unable to support themselves during this pandemic.
To find out how the response of foreigners related to the appeal of the Australian government, the AIYA National team successfully interviewed two Indonesian students, Dionisius David Esteven and Judystira Setyadji who currently live in Australia.
Hello, please introduce yourself you can start from work, professional background to what are you doing now?
D: Hello, my name is Dionisius David Esteven, at the moment I am a student in Australia. I am currently pursuing a Master of Accounting degree at a university in Sydney. Due to the Covid19 pandemic and the requirement for issues at home, my busy schedule was just learning from home by attending an online class from the university.
J: Hello hello, my name is Judystira Setyadji, usually called Didi. I am 21 years old and from Surabaya. Now I am undergoing my 3rd year of college at Sydney University, majoring in Marketing and Finance.
Can you explain how you have been up to now in Australia amid the Corona Virus or Covid-19 outbreak?
D: My condition so far is quite good and thankfulness is healthy, with a lock down policy that requires people to stay at home quite successfully to reduce the spread of the corona virus. On the other hand, I also lost my side job and didn’t work for a while.
J: Praise God until now my condition is fine. But yeah, going to school in a foreign country has a goal to explore this new region, but with Covid-19, now it’s all closed and we all have to keep our distance from each other. The point is the situation here is quite flat now.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has asked all foreign nationals to return to their respective countries because the situation has worsened in Australia due to the Corona Virus pandemic or Covid-19, what is your response to this? Do you agree to return or choose to stay in Australia?
D: I am very disappointed and saddened by PM Scott Morisson’s statement in response to this. Because the reality is not that simple, asking foreigners such as International Students and Temporary Visa Holders affected by Covid19 to just go home if they lose their jobs and cannot support their living expenses seems to sound unfair and unfair.
I personally prefer to stay in Australia for several reasons. First, the situation in Asia, especially Indonesia where I come from, is not very conducive. For reasons of my own safety and health, the family also suggested not to return to see Corona’s situation in Indonesia getting worse. Secondly, as far as I know many flights are no longer available, even if there are very limited and very expensive prices. Indirectly, I don’t have much choice to do anything but just hold on and wait for things to improve.
J : I think it depends on each of our conditions. As for myself, I am undergoing my final year at Sydney University. If I go back, in my opinion, there is a probability that I cannot return to Sydney and finish my school. What’s more, exam schedules and assignments will be very different and can be difficult for me. Now I see Sydney’s condition is safe because the panic attack is over and people here are orderly in implementing new regulations implemented by the government to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
If you choose to stay and remain in Australia after this appeal is issued, what might happen because some foreign workers have been dismissed from jobs without good severance?
D: There have been many challenges faced by foreign workers since the Corona virus case occurred. In fact many of them no longer have income and only depend on savings funds to support their daily living expenses, which may not be enough to last long. Actually foreign workers are the first group to be affected by this situation, what I mean is that like most companies and shops from all sectors dismiss workers from this group first without any benefit. I also know some friends who are in very difficult circumstances, just to save money and survive, they are willing to eat once a day or depend on donations made by a group of donors who provide free food for people who need it like them.
If you choose to return to your home country, what will the Australian government provide to support the return of foreigners?
D: To my knowledge, no assistance will be provided to support the repatriation of foreigners to their home countries. We have accumulated superannuation funds while working in Australia, when choosing to return to their home country for good, we can claim the superannuation fund and the tax rate depends on the status of each visa. Usually 65% for working holiday visa holders and 35% for international students. I feel this choice is not very helpful or useful for all those who are in difficult times like this.
Do you think, as a foreign national living in Australia you actually have the right to be provided with benefits considering you also participate in paying taxes?
D: All foreigners residing in Australia have actually contributed a lot to the development of the Australian economy both directly and indirectly. We also pay taxes according to existing policies. It is true that International students studying in Australia are considered to be able to support their own living expenses without government assistance, one of the initial conditions before applying for the student visa. But the reality is, while taking education, most of us also work to pay for the education costs ourselves and support our daily living expenses without having to depend or burden our families. Since this lockdown policy, we have all lost our jobs and income without definite help from the government, International students also still have to pay school fees as usual even though some universities provide financial relief assistance, to be honest this is very heavy. As we know, the education sector contributes a large portion of Australia’s economic development.
Unfortunately, Australia, which we consider a big and powerful country, has turned a blind eye and ignored 1.6 million temporary visa holders out there at a time like this. The assistance provided by Australia to us is only in the form of early access to the superannuation fund that we have to support our lives who do not know how long everything will be back to normal. As a rich and large country, Australia should be able to pay more attention to this group of people regardless of visa status, because in the end this pandemic attacks us all regardless of each other’s status.
A: A lot of information is circulating that Australia is one of the safest countries in the world today. The number of cases began to decrease drastically and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has begun to urge students to return to school in term 2. Looking at these facts, I feel many job vacancies will again be open to foreign workers. However, even now the economic conditions here have deteriorated, the rate of unemployment has risen dramatically. This shows that not only foreign workers were dismissed, but also local residents. Everyone here is struggling to pay for their own living costs.
Benefits are the same as unemployment. News here states that many local people do not get any benefits at all. Seeing that local people themselves do not get benefits, I feel that foreigners will find it difficult to get benefits even though they also pay taxes. I think this is quite reasonable, because of external factors that intimidate us all. The many new legal laws that avoid business here can operate normally, causing the economic downturn in Australia. In the end, everything related to finance. Stay strong to all Indonesian citizens in Australia, don’t panic, keep hoping for the best and take care of each one of you well because in these moments of adversity we are tested. With the emergence of difficulties, there certainly seems to be gaps in opportunities that we can use.