However, the Nepal government which ferried 250 stranded Australian and New Zealand nationals from Kathmandu to Brisbane last week has barred entry of outsiders including Nepalis from abroad.
“Our requests for tuition discounts or refunds have not been addressed,” Gaurab Gurung wrote in an email interview. “In some cases, universities have extended the due dates and changed the grading system. Some have even introduced financial hardship packages.”
The Non-resident Nepali Association in Australia is providing food assistance to newly-arrived students, but many are confined to their rooms and are struggling to pay rent. The no eviction rule applies only to citizens and permanent citizens, and Australia’s recent wage subsidy of $130 billion excludes international students.
“You are lucky if you are working in health, agriculture, food processing or aged care, but lucky is a relative term especially for nursing students,” says Shakya who works in aged care, and even though it is not in a COVID-19 unit she says one never knows if the patients have been exposed. But her paid work is jeopardised because she has to isolate herself for two weeks after her unpaid placement.
“It is unfair, and makes us feel like we are taken for granted,” she adds. “But despite the fear and confusion, we have to do what we have to do. I chose this profession and understand what it demands. The nursing profession, at its core, has always been about caring for our patients and I am in it for the long haul.”
The Nepal Embassy in Canberra has started collecting information via an Emergency Registration Form on current Nepalis stranded in Australia. Education consultancies which have been double dipping by charging high placement fees from both students and the universities also need to show some corporate responsibility, it is felt. Five umbrella organisations of education consultancies recently issued a joint statement requesting that adequate support be provided to Nepali students during the crisis.
Prime Minister Morrison’s statement last week could also be an indication of what awaits Nepalis globally as economies struggle to cope with the pandemic. In containment efforts of COVID-19, the weakest link in the chain is the way foreigners are not treated on par with locals.
Grishma Bista, a recent LLM graduate from Australia, contributed to this report.