We were quite lucky to get on one of the three repatriation flights from India to New Zealand. Others were not. The criteria for prioritizing the passengers on the repatriation flights, was obviously to prefer New Zealand citizens, their immediate family members, & then the Permanent residents. Currently work visa holders are still not allowed to enter New Zealand apart from some exemptions.
Quite a few New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and work visa holders are still stranded back in India and are pleading New Zealand Government to organize some more repatriation flights to fly them back to New Zealand. As we enter the level two of the lockdown, the government must bring back all the New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and the work visa holders who are still stranded in India. Most of them have their full-time jobs in New Zealand, on which they relay to feed their families, repay their educational loans, rents and mortgages. By leaving them stranded, the government is not only putting them in a huge debt which would be extremely challenging to recover from but is also crushing their dreams to build successful careers.
Now, a few days back, Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins made a comment regarding the possibility of starting the international student sector by allowing the students to enter the country. This was obviously due to some universities and polytechnics experiencing the agony, as they lose out on the enormous amount of international student fees. These international student fees make up most, or should I say all of the NZ $5 billion, that contributes towards strengthening the New Zealand economy. Just to illustrate, a course that may cost NZ$7000 locally, could cost approximately NZ$30,000 to an international student. Almost a five-fold rise in the course fee!
I personally have been through this more than a decade ago. Most of the Indian students who pursue their studies in the universities and polytechnics, carry a huge amount of an educational loan from the banks and financial firms back in India to pay these exorbitant fees.
As a part of the immigration policy, the international students are entitled to the work visas once they have successfully finished their courses. This can be considered a general benchmark. It is this provision, that the bulk of Indian students trust on, to repay their massive loans. I wonder how many Indian students would choose New Zealand as their destination of study if the government revokes this provision? Due to this provision, quite a few of them have not only achieved the jobs related to their qualifications, but have also, very successfully repaid their loans, and, on their sheer hard work have built their careers here. So, from being international students to work visa holders, permanent residents and finally the New Zealand citizens, these are honest tax-paying people who have been contributing towards the economy before they even stepped in the country!
There are also others who migrated here from India as skilled migrants. A vast number of people currently stranded in India belong to these two categories who visited India to catch up with their families or had an urgency.
So, the government needs to explain this hypocrisy of exhibiting the willingness to allow the international students but barring the ex-international students and skilled migrants who have paid their dues and built their lives here.
Sanket is an NZ citizen who first arrived as an international student and was stranded in India after Covid-19 related border restrictions before coming back in the country on the government-assisted flights. The views expressed are the author's alone.
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