They are on this day a hundred on that sidewalk from Melbourne to wait for a basket meal free of charge. For all those foreign students who arrived legally to the four corners of the world, the coronavirus has made the “dream australia” a nightmare.
The huge island-continent each year attracts hundreds of thousands of students with the double promise of a degree course performance and a unique adventure.
But many are now deprived of their means of subsistence, as-ordered restrictions to combat the outbreak of Covid-19 resulted in the closure of many small shops where these students could work.
From Asia, Latin America and elsewhere, they have paid thousands of euros to come and study in Australia. But like the Colombian Santiago Castillo, they are now reduced to counting every cent.
Prior to the pandemic, this 26 year old young man was working in a café. But his job is part of the hundreds of thousands that have vanished due to a virus.
He managed to pay his rent, thanks to the help of friends. But now, it has more than 66 dollars on his account, which is nothing in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
The huge envelope released by the government to help workers who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic does not apply to non-residents, even though they pay taxes and earn billions of dollars to the national economy.
For Santiago, the two meals provided each day by the Institute for education in Melbourne are vital.
“It’s really stressful”, he says to the AFP. “I’m starting to have skin problems. It is as if I was able to manage the situation psychologically, but my body reacted”.
Marilia da Silva, student, brazilian, jonglait of his side, between his English classes and twenty hours of work in a coffee shop when she lost her job. It is also common now to soup kitchens.
Relatives have also proposed to the food. “They told me to ask if I needed anything. I felt a lot of support. It’s good for you.”
The Institute for education of Melbourne has close to 600 foreign students. And, according to its managing director Gary Coonar, 90% have lost their jobs.
Michelle Cassell, an employee of the services of the student life of the Institute, explains that “in this kind of situation, the students will generally deprive themselves of meals to pay for their housing”.
And the difficulties students have become more glaring, yet these last six weeks, during which the kitchens of the Institute have operated every day at full throttle.
Invited to return home
Since 30 march, the institute partnered with a local association, the Charon Foundation, to finance and to prepare 900 meals per week. A program that should continue, according to Ms. Cassell until September, or until the students fall back on their paws”.
There are more than half a million foreign students in Australia, who contribute to the australian economy to the tune of 32 billion australian dollars.
The foreign students were at half of their first year when, in response to the crisis of the sars coronavirus, the conservative Prime minister, Scott Morrison invited them to go home on the 3 April.
“To this date, the aircraft were already grounded,” recalls Mr Coonar to the AFP. “Those who would have wanted to leave could not even”.
Laarni Byrne was studying to be a kitchen, and the mother of two children remained in the Philippines has made the choice to stay in Australia.
“I’ve had the luck to arrive in Australia, it had involved a lot of work,” she says.
The easing of restrictions effective June 1, means that restaurants and cafes will be able to accommodate more customers.
Some students have already been contacted by their boss to return to work. The recovery promises to be, however, gradual and not all of them will find their employment.