New York: Next year is shaping up to be a humanitarian catastrophe and rich countries must not trample poor countries in a “stampede for vaccines” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, top UN officials have told the 193-member UN General Assembly.
World Food Program (WFP) chief David Beasley and World Health Organisation (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke on Friday during a special meeting on COVID-19, which emerged in China late last year and has so far infected 65 million globally.
The pandemic, measures taken by countries to try to stop its spread and the economic impact have fuelled a 40 per cent increase in the number of people needing humanitarian help, the United Nations said earlier this week. It has appealed for $US35 billion ($47 billion) in aid funding.
“2021 is literally going to be catastrophic based on what we’re seeing at this stage of the game,” said Beasley, adding that for a dozen countries, famine is “knocking on the door”.
By: Reuters | New York |
December 1, 2020 12:04:31 pm
“The pandemic has wreaked carnage across the most fragile and vulnerable countries,” he added. (File)
The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled a 40% increase in the number of people needing humanitarian assistance around the globe, the United Nations said on Tuesday, as it appealed for roughly $35 billion to help many of those expected to be in need next year.
“If everyone who will need humanitarian aid next year lived in one country, it would be the world’s fifth largest nation,” U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said.
“The pandemic has wreaked carnage across the most fragile and vulnerable countries,” he added.
The United Nations has set out 34 humanitarian response plans covering 56 countries for 2021, aiming to help 160 million of what it forecasts to be 235 million most vulnerable people worldwide facing hunger, conflict and the impacts of climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.
“We always aim to reach about two-thirds of those in need because others, for example the Red Cross, will try to meet the remaining gap,” Lowcock said. He said this year donors gave a record $17 billion to fund humanitarian operations and data showed that aid reached 70% of the people targeted.
While Lowcock noted the $35 billion needed for 2021 was a lot of money, he said it was a “very small” amount compared to what rich countries have spent protecting their citizens during the pandemic.
Key among the concerns for Lowcock is averting famines in countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burkina Faso.
“There is a clear and present danger of really a large scale famine in Yemen now and the single biggest reason for that is because some very important countries who provided a lot of assistance for our relief operation in 2018 and 2019 have not done that in 2020 and those are the countries of the Gulf,” he said.
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The UN said Tuesday that a full-blown humanitarian crisis was unfolding in northern Ethiopia, where thousands of people each day are fleeing the conflict in the Tigray region.
The warning came as diplomats and humanitarian officials reported heavy fighting in northern and southern Tigray, and as federal forces claimed “major victories” that would bring them closer to the regional capital Mekele.
A communications blackout in Tigray throughout the two-week conflict has made claims of advances difficult to verify.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced the military campaign in Tigray on 4 November, saying it came in response to attacks by the local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), on federal military camps.
The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that around 27,000 Ethiopians had fled across the border into Sudan – a figure now rising by around 4,000 people each day.
“A full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding,” spokesman Babar Baloch told a virtual press briefing from Geneva.
“Refugees fleeing the fighting continue to arrive exhausted from the long trek to safety, with few belongings.”
Ethiopian refugees gather in Qadarif region, eastern Sudan
Those arriving in Sudan recounted terrifying scenes of artillery barrages and massacres.
“I saw bodies dismembered by the explosions,” said Ganet Gazerdier, 75, whose home was destroyed in the town of Humera, and finds herself at a refugee camp in eastern Sudan.
“Other bodies were rotting, lying on the road, murdered with a knife”, she added.
‘Final throes of death’
On Friday Abiy Ahmed declared the TPLF was “in the final throes of death” and gave regional troops three days to “rise up” and side with the national army.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
In a Facebook post on Tuesday morning, he said their time was up and that “in the coming days the final law enforcement activities will be done”.
A government statement on Tuesday evening said federal forces controlled multiple towns in southern Tigray and were “pacing to Mekele”, getting as close as Mehoni, roughly 125 kilometres (78 miles) to the south.
Federal forces already claimed to control Tigray’s western zone, where fighting has been heavy, and over the weekend said they had seized the southern town of Alamata.
Fierce clashes occurred Tuesday in the region surrounding Alamata as well as in the northern town of Shire, where camps house thousands of Eritrean refugees, diplomats and humanitarian officials said.
A video released by the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency shows Ethiopian military sitting on an armoured personnel carrier next to a national flag
Ethiopian News Agency
Also on Tuesday, a government statement said the army had carried out “precision led and surgical air operations” outside Mekele on Monday.
Tigrayan leader Debretsion Gebremichael said the strikes caused civilian casualties, which the government denied.
Diplomats say it is far from clear that federal forces will be able to quickly defeat the TPLF, which has considerable military assets and an estimated 250,000 troops fighting on mountainous terrain they know well.
The Ethiopian military is estimated at 150,000 troops, though that does not include special forces and militias.
A video released by the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency shows military cheering and dancing near the border of the Tigray and Amhara regions
Ethiopian News Agency
Mr Debretsion said Tuesday that “the government and people of Tigray” would hold their ground.
“This campaign cannot be finished. As long as the army of the invaders is in our land, the fight will continue.”
Abiy Ahmed has resisted calls by world leaders to cease hostilities.
His government has said there can be no mediation until Tigray’s leaders have been disarmed and brought to court.
Mr Abiy and his staff gathered at his office compound in Addis Ababa on Tuesday to salute the armed forces, waving flags as a military marching band played before holding their hands over their hearts during an extended moment of silence.
Ethiopians hold national flags as they gather at an event organised by city officials to honour the Ethiopian military
Similar ceremonies took place throughout the capital, with participants denouncing the TPLF.
“The government and the people you see today didn’t come out because they like war, but they want to terminate the criminal junta once and for all,” Addis Ababa resident Henok Lemma told AFP.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades before Abiy came to power in 2018.
The military operations kicked off after months of worsening tensions as TPLF leaders were sidelined and became ever more defiant of the federal government.
Ethiopia’s defiant Tigray regional government has fired rockets at two airports in the neighbouring Amhara region as a deadly conflict threatens to spread.
In recent days the TPLF has fired rockets on airports in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, south of Tigray, and in the capital of neighbouring Eritrea.
The strikes on Asmara, in particular, have reinforced fears that Ethiopia’s conflict could draw in the wider Horn of Africa region.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the strikes while commending “Eritrea’s restraint, which has helped prevent further spreading of the conflict.”
“We are deeply concerned by this blatant attempt by the TPLF to cause regional instability by expanding its conflict with Ethiopian authorities to neighbouring countries,” Mr Pompeo said.
A major humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Ethiopia, the United Nations refugee agency says, with more than 27,000 people fleeing heavy fighting to Sudan.
As many as 4,000 Ethiopians a day are fleeing the country into Sudan
Fighting has escalated between the Ethiopian Government and the regional government in Tigray
The UN is warning locals say there is no sign of the fighting stopping
The pace of the exodus from Ethiopia, some 4,000 a day, may also indicate huge uprooting of people within the Tigray region, UN agencies said, adding that teams on the ground were overwhelmed.
Sudan already hosts nearly 1 million refugees including those who have fled conflict and poverty in Chad, Eritrea, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
“People are coming out of Ethiopia really scared, afraid, with stories saying they have been fleeing heavy fighting and there’s no sign of the fighting stopping,” Babar Baloch, spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
“UNHCR is on stand-by to provide assistance in Tigray when access and security allow.”
Addis Ababa has maintained Tigray’s ruling “clique” must be arrested and have its arsenal destroyed.
Mr Abiy warned on Tuesday that a deadline for rebel northern forces to lay down arms had expired, paving the way for a push on the Tigray region’s capital, Mekelle.
“The three-day ultimatum given to Tigray Special Forces and the militia to surrender … has ended today,” Mr Abiy said on Facebook.
Attempts at mediation between the parties have failed as each side regards the other as illegal.
On Monday, Ethiopia’s foreign minister went to Uganda and Kenya, while a former Nigerian president flew to Addis Ababa.
Diplomats have described a growing push for negotiations, but Ethiopia said it was simply explaining an internal conflict to outsiders.
UN wants the creation of a humanitarian corridor
The UNHCR’s Mr Baloch also repeated concerns for tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees settled in Ethiopia, saying that clashes had occurred near one of the settlements, but that poor communications were complicating aid efforts.
To date, all communication lines, including phone and internet services, have been suspended in the region since fighting began.
Eritrea was brought into the conflict when three rockets, reportedly fired from Tigray, hit the capital Asmara.
Hours earlier the Tigray regional government warned it might attack Eritrea.
The creation of a humanitarian corridor is a priority, according to Jens Laerke, spokesman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
A World Food Programme official said it was able to continue humanitarian flights daily and was hoping to start a helicopter service to reach isolated groups.
A convoy of four buses and several cars, carrying about 400 foreigners from Mekelle, was expected to arrive in the capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday, five diplomatic sources told Reuters.
Another convoy of about 200 people, mainly workers for international organisations, reached the capital on Monday.
The UN along with European and African governments are clamouring for talks, and even the Nobel committee expressed concern in rare comment on a past laureate’s actions.
The cut to the Humanitarian Program is intended to save $945 million over four years. But the fine print suggests even this reduced program may not be delivered as long as COVID-19 international travel restrictions remain in place.
The bulk of the Humanitarian Program in 2020-21 may go to a few thousand successful onshore asylum seekers unless the Government decides to grant permanent residence to some of the 15,000 Temporary Protection visa holders currently in Australia. That would be sensible policy rather than leave these people in limbo for the rest of their lives for purely political reasons (because they came by boat when Labor was in power).
A Migration Program of 160,000 would be around 20,000 larger than actually delivered in 2019-20. It is highly unusual for an Australian government to increase the Migration Program during a recession.
So let’s look at the limited details that have been provided to date.
The first issue is actually a non-Budget announcement. The Budget says nothing about the temporary suspension of the four-year wait for social security that applies to newly arrived migrants. This temporary suspension expires on 31 December 2020, so it would seem the suspension will not be extended.
We do not know how many newly arrived migrants are currently on JobSeeker or how many that may be granted a visa in 2020-21 would need such support if they don’t get a job quickly or lose any job they currently have.
That will influence how both state and commonwealth governments manage the program in 2020-21. In a weak labour market, no government will want to be accused of bringing in migrants who fail to get a job and end up relying on charity.
The big change in the 2020-21 Migration Program is a major increase in places for the family stream from an outcome of 41,961 in 2019-20 (including child visas) to 77,300 (not including child visas) in 2020-21.
This would be the second-largest family stream in our history since 1987-88 when it was delivered at 79,500 (including child visas). It would also be the first time the family stream represented around 50% of the Migration Program since 1996-97 when balancing the program in favour of the skill stream became an article of faith under John Howard.
The Government would have agonised over this and is already making excuses that the offshore portion of the program will retain the two-thirds to one-third balance in favour of the skill stream.
In reality, Immigration Minister Alan Tudge had no choice but to increase the allocation of places for partner visas (72,300) to start clearing the backlog that has built up since Prime Minister Scott Morrison was Immigration Minister.
It was that or risk getting even more egg on his face as he may have at last been told by his legal advisers that limiting visa grants to spouse applicants is unlawful.
But why would the Morrison Cabinet agree to increasing the allocation of partner visas to an all-time high?
Did Tudge get scared by the Parliamentary motion from Julian Hill MP accusing the Government of being in breach of the Migration Act?
Did Tudge ask for formal legal advice on whether he was in breach of the Migration Act in limiting the number of spouse visas?
Did this advice go to Cabinet when it was setting the 2020-21 Migration Program?
Did Cabinet agree to the massive increase in partner visa places because Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton are also implicated — after all, they did the same thing when they were Immigration Minister?
And Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo has been there throughout. When did he first find out limiting spouse visas was a breach of the Migration Act?
Sadly, we may not know the answers to these questions until the Cabinet papers are released in 25 years.
To try and limit demand for partner visa places in future (and to indulge in a bit of dog-whistling), the Government has also announced it will introduce an English language test for partner visa applicants and their Australian sponsors. Seems Australians will need to be much more careful in future when choosing who they marry.
This will require at least a regulation change which can be disallowed in the Senate. Senator Jacqui Lambie and the two Centre Alliance Senators will be under pressure on this one as Pauline Hanson will likely love this proposal even if many of her supporters (and perhaps Pauline herself) would struggle to pass such a test depending on the level of the pass mark.
In a late development, Tudge seems to have changed this policy now saying that no one will be refused if they don’t meet the required English language level but will be granted a provisional visa if they demonstrate adequate efforts to learn English before they are granted permanent residence.
This is better but really, at best, the Minister seems to be indulging in policy on the run.
In the skill stream, there are three key developments.
Firstly, allocation to the business migration categories has been increased from 4,420 in 2019-20 to 13,500 in 2020-21. The application backlog in this category is over 31,500 so delivering the increase is readily possible, although it should be noted the vast bulk of applicants are from mainland China.
Given current relations with China, co-operation from Chinese Government authorities to check the integrity of capital earned by applicants as well as security and police checks may not be forthcoming.
The Chinese Government may also seek to limit the ability of large numbers of its citizens taking massive amounts of capital out of China for investment in an unfriendly Australia.
Secondly, allocation for the Global Talent Independent visa has been increased from 4,109 in 2019-20 to an astonishing 15,000 in 2020-21. Despite having sent specially appointed staff to cities around the world to drum up applications, over 80% of the 4,109 visa grants were to people already in Australia.
There were only 2,448 applications on hand in this category at end June 2020, the bulk of whom will be onshore. Immigration processing officers will continue to be under intense pressure to encourage potential applicants to use this category over all others.
The Government says this category is for high-flying people with high tech skills and the potential to earn a salary in excess of $150,000 per annum.
In reality, the criteria for this category are super subjective. For example, no formal independent skills test; no English language requirement; no age requirement; no sponsor obligations; no labour market test; no sponsor training requirement; no actual requirement for the nominator to employ the person they nominate or to pay them any minimum salary at all.
But that means, at best, there will be huge inconsistency in decision-making with whatever benchmarks processing staff are instructed to use, constantly being dragged down to meet the extraordinary target of 15,000.
This visa category will be loved by migration agents with strong relationships with junior visa processing staff as they can wine and dine those staff to get favourable outcomes. The risk of bribery and corruption will be extraordinarily high.
Finally, the Government has announced that it will make it easier for New Zealand citizens who have been in Australia long-term to apply for formal permanent residence through the Skilled Independent category.
Traditionally, New Zealand citizens securing formal permanent residence have not been counted as part of the formal Migration Program. But those counting rules were changed under Peter Dutton to enable a further effective reduction in the intake.
Increased places for New Zealand citizens will increase the effect of that change in counting rules.
But the key characteristic of the 2020-21 Migration and Humanitarian Programs will be the portion that is granted to people already in Australia. This percentage is likely to exceed the record in 2019-21 and may well be over 80%.
That would explain the forecast of negative net migration in 2020-21 and 2021-22. The first time we have had two successive years of negative net migration since the Great Depression.
Abul Rizvi is an Independent Australia columnist and a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration, currently undertaking a PhD on Australia’s immigration policies. You can follow Abul on Twitter @RizviAbul.
Canada’s border clampdown on travel could soon be adjusted to allow some new humanitarian exemptions.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told reporters Wednesday that he’s looking to establish a process to weigh certain travel applications on a case-by-case basis.
A number of separated couples, extended families and businesses have urged the government to refine its policy, arguing that the current rules are too inflexible and have caused unnecessary disruption and personal distress.
Public opinion polls suggest the travel restrictions are extremely popular with Canadians. The pandemic has killed more than 9,000 people in Canada.
Ottawa apparently is hoping to square those competing pressures by preserving the current safety restrictions in general while allowing some new exceptions.
“We want to make sure that there is a very careful process in place where people can apply for those exemptions,” Blair told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Ottawa.
“That [way] they can be properly evaluated, not in a few minutes of conversation at the border but prior to that, so that we can show compassion and, at the same time, maintain the integrity of the border.”
Blair said the government has decisions to make soon: the current land-border deal with the U.S. expires next week and one source said it will be prolonged.
Families split by the border
When asked what sorts of situations he was hoping to address, Blair mentioned extended family, international students, compassionate cases and business requirements.
Canada already loosened the rules in June — but only for immediate family members and only on the condition that they spend a minimum of two weeks in Canada, under quarantine.
A number of people have said the conditions are so narrow and strict, they’ve kept step-parents from visiting children, kept committed couples apart for the birth of a child, separated a cancer patient from her fiancé and prevented people from seeing a dying loved one.
Blair recently discussed the issue with a number of mayors who expressed support for travel restrictions but offered examples of people hurt by the current rules.
In an email to CBC News, Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia, Ont., mentioned the example of people being unable to visit a dying relative.
He said Blair told the mayors some changes would be coming to allow compassionate exemptions. The mayor said he expects an announcement any day.
Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano declined to reveal details of what Blair told the mayors. He did, however, say the mayors broadly supported some humanitarian exemptions — as long as the changes were minor and mostly maintained the current border restrictions.
One group advocating for separated families says numerous countries have policies in place that allow couples to reunite.
A four-point proposal for the border
The group has proposed a four-point plan that would require travellers to: sign an affidavit (as in Denmark); provide proof they have health insurance; and submit to testing and a quarantine requirement on the Canadian they’re visiting if the traveller can’t stay in Canada for the current minimum 15 days.
That group, Faces of Advocacy, was founded by a Regina doctor separated from his partner in Ireland.
Dr. David Edward-Ooi Poon said people too often present the border as an either-or decision when there are better ways to design the policy.
“A false dichotomy is being presented [to Canadians],” he told CBC News.
“It’s very popular to keep the border closed. What we’re missing is a compassionate exemption process.”
Online comments expressing support for the closures often point to the disparity in the COVID-19 caseload between Canada and the United States.
The U.S. currently has several dozen times more cases than Canada and, according to the site Worldometer, which tracks COVID-19 cases globally, has a per-capita death count nearly three times higher.
A number of Democrats have pointed to that disparity in their campaign against U.S. President Donald Trump.
“On Friday of [last] week, more than 1,000 Americans died. And in Canada, zero did,” Jake Sullivan, a policy adviser to Joe Biden, said on the show Fox News Sunday. “That is the difference in failed leadership in the United States.”
The disparity with Canada also came up in a town-hall meeting Trump participated in this week on ABC.
The Canada Border Services Agency said that for the period of Sept. 9 to 15, compared to the same period last year, the number of travellers on flights from the U.S. was down 96 per cent, the number of air travellers from other countries was down 89 per cent and the number of land travellers was down 92 per cent.
Commercial cargo travel fared better: the number of truck drivers entering Canada fell 16 per cent from the previous year.
Thanks to international border restrictions and the extremely substantial price of unemployment, Australia’s 2020-21 migration and humanitarian applications are possible to be fewer than because the get started of publish-war migration.
At noticeably considerably less than one per cent, and potentially nearer to .5 for every cent, Australia’s population expansion fee in 2020-21 might be the slowest considering that the 1930s.
Even though the Federal Governing administration is still to release reviews on the 2019-20 migration and humanitarian application results, Performing Minister Alan Tudgestated on the ABC Insiders system that the 2019-20 migration application was delivered about 20,000 beneath the ceiling of 160,000.
That would be the smallest migration program because 2004-05. The humanitarian system will have also fallen well short of the ceiling of 18,750.
The Section of Dwelling Affairs (DHA) would now be making ready suggestions on the 2020-21 migration and humanitarian packages, which may be announced with the postponed 2020 Spending plan.
The solutions for how the Govt may body its announcement of the 2020-21 migration and humanitarian courses include:
preserve the present-day ceilings (ie 160,000 for the migration program and 18,750 for the humanitarian system) but suggest superior probability these will not be delivered except global borders are re-opened before long or
lessen the ceilings to a level matching the government’s precise planning degree – that may perhaps reflect a incredibly massive reduction that provides the federal government minimal overall flexibility if global borders are re-opened for the duration of 2020-21 or
decrease the ceiling but to a stage significantly over the real planning level – which would stay a solution. This would give the federal government home to make adjustments must the will need crop up.
The 3rd of these choices, with an real migration arranging stage that might very well be a person of the lowest in our submit-war historical past, appears the most very likely.
When DHA released a token amount of places in the proficient unbiased and family-sponsored categories on 14 July, it is hugely probably the Federal government will system to concern really few offshore long-lasting resident visas in 2020-21. It will want to stay clear of putting tension on the 4,000 for every 7 days cap on overseas arrivals.
There could be a limited selection of offshore organization expertise visas reliable with the Morrison Government’s motivation to attract organization migrants and involved investment decision cash from Hong Kong. To do so, the Government would will need to work intently with state governments.
There may well also be a minimal amount of offshore employer-sponsored visa places, primarily for wellbeing professionals.
There is far more overall flexibility for the Government to problem onshore long term residence visas but it will be conscious of the existing high unemployment fee and whatsoever plan it announces on the recently arrived migrant 4-year hold out for social protection, that is at this time suspended.
If the Govt maintains the present suspension of the 4-12 months hold out, it would need to factor in the fees to the spending budget of issuing added long lasting home visas. If it eliminates the suspension, it risks an even more substantial amount of folks becoming reliant on charity.
DHA will want to take the possibility of a digital freeze on abroad arrivals because of to COVID-19 to crystal clear some onshore backlogs in conditions of husband or wife purposes, onshore expert/business enterprise purposes sponsored by condition/territory governments, onshore employer-sponsored applications, as very well as onshore asylum seekers.
Whether or not it maintains the two-thirds ability stream versus just one-third loved ones stream equilibrium is open to conjecture.
The Government will want to use the closure of intercontinental borders to obvious the really large backlog of onshore asylum seekers that has made in current many years. If it chooses to do so, that would involve all over 2,000 to 3,000 spots in the humanitarian software for asylum seekers whose programs are authorised.
But that would depart a pretty substantial selection of unsuccessful asylum seekers (perhaps 80,000 additionally) significantly reliant on charity, provided the recent labour market place. This is except they are able to protected get the job done, mainly on farms, which would give the Governing administration some reduction from force from farmers to allow in more very low proficient labour to decide on fruit.
As has been the circumstance in recent several years, the Coalition Govt will spend quite several means in attempting to identify and clear away unsuccessful asylum seekers, preferring to sweep the concern under the carpet. That tactic appears to be supported by asylum seeker advocates even if it prospects to the generation of a developing exploited underclass in Australian culture.
It is very unlikely the Federal government will method a lot of offshore humanitarian visa apps in 2020-21.
Web overseas migration will pretty much unquestionably be 1 of the least expensive considering the fact that Globe War Two, noting that granting onshore candidates long term residence not often impacts on internet overseas migration. The suitable individuals would have now been counted as net overseas migration arrivals having been in Australia very well about the 12 months out of 16 months expected whilst on a temporary entry visa.
If the Morrison Governing administration gets rid of the short term suspension of limitations for New Zealand citizens to obtain JobKeeper and JobSeeker, we may possibly also see a substantial exodus of New Zealanders who are not able to maintain on to their jobs. That would practically surely be certain adverse net abroad migration in 2020-21.
The complete quantum of populace advancement in 2020-21 might rank among the lowest due to the fact Environment War Two, fairly than a single of the greatest in our historical past as forecast in the 2019 Budget.
Indeed, it is pretty likely inhabitants advancement around the period of time 2019-2022 will be involving 700,000 and one million much less than forecast in the 2019 Funds.
That will have very long-term implications for populace ageing, financial growth and the Government’s budget position.
Abul Rizvi is an Impartial Australia columnist and a former Deputy Secretary of the Section of Immigration, at the moment enterprise a PhD on Australia’s immigration policies. You can abide by Abul on Twitter @RizviAbul.
At the start of the year Ezgi Karasu and Stuart Craig were a financially stable young couple with big dreams for their new lives in Australia, but within months of coronavirus taking off, the pair found themselves without work, facing eviction and asking homelessness services for help.
Many international students have lost part-time work
International students are not able to access JobKeeper or income support
Many students can’t get home because of travel restrictions or the cost of flying
The pair are among a large number of international students dealing with increasingly desperate financial circumstances that one advocate has described as a “looming humanitarian crisis.”
Ms Karasu and Mr Craig said before coronavirus they never imagined they would need financial support.
“It has been incredible just how quickly it can happen,” Mr Craig said.
“For us, we have had a string of bad luck, just a few bits of bad luck and it takes you from being financially stable and buoyant, you are fine, to talking with people to avoid being homeless.”
Mr Craig and Ms Karasu’s story began in Prague where they met travelling.
He is from Scotland, she is from Turkey and like many couples from different parts of the world, they faced plenty of obstacles when they wanted to be together.
“Australia was pretty much the only place we could find that could offer visas to Turkey and the UK,” Mr Craig said.
In Melbourne Ms Karasu is a student studying early childhood education and Mr Craig had worked as a data analyst.
When coronavirus took off Mr Craig was unable to find work and the cafe Ms Karasu was a part-time waitress at, closed for the pandemic.
They were left without an income.
Should international students get income support?
Ms Karasu wasn’t able to get JobKeeper payments for her waitressing job because she was not a citizen or resident of Australia.
The couple could not access any income support for the same reason.
He said the pair had invested their savings into their lives in Australia, had paid taxes while working but had found themselves without support from the Australian Government or their home countries.
The Federal Labor Party wrote to the Federal Government in April to request coronavirus support be extended to temporary visa holders.
The Shadow Minister for Social Services Linda Burney said the Federal Government needed to carefully consider the impact of its treatment of international students.
“These are not ordinary times, and the government needs to ensure that international students trapped in Australia are not slipping through the cracks, left with nothing and falling into hardship,” she said.
But Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan defended his government’s position.
“International students continue to have access to our world class health system throughout this pandemic.
“Students who have been in Australia longer than 12 months, who find themselves in financial hardship, will be able to access their Australian superannuation.”
On Friday, the NSW Government announced it would spend $20 million dollars funding temporary crisis accommodation for international students stranded in Australia.
With savings dwindling students can’t pay their rent
In April Ms Karasu and Mr Craig told their landlord they were experiencing financial stress.
A month later they were told to vacate, despite national bans on evictions.
Mr Craig then started searching online for homeless services that could help.
But many organisations have told the couple they need some income even for crisis accommodation.
Ms Karasu said she had considered going back to Turkey but faced travel restrictions.
She said she has also invested a lot of money into her education in Australia.
Her educational provider, Melbourne City Institute of Education, has now stepped in to help Ms Karasu and her partner with emergency accommodation.
Cooking school providing meals for hundreds of students
The Institute’s managing director, Gary Coonar, said more than 90 per cent of the international students studying at his organisation had lost their part-time jobs.
“All of their income vanished and their families back home aren’t able to help, they are in the same boat,” he said.
He said many students could not return home, even if they wanted to.
Mr Coonar said his organisation had been doing what it could to help.
“We are hearing stories of staff members putting money into bank accounts of students so they can pay their rent, it is just heartbreaking,” he said.
He said some staff members had offered spare bedrooms to students to stay in, while MCIE has been cooking meals for about 100 students each day.
It has been using its commercial kitchen that its cooking students usually use, to prepare meals.
With the help of a charity, Mr Coonar said MCIE had spent $7000 a week for the past eight weeks making more than 7000 meals for international students who can’t afford to buy groceries.
“We do feel like we have been left on our own to manage our students’ situation right now,” he said.
While the Victorian Government has announced relief payments of up to $1,100 to international students, Mr Coonar said he was not aware of any student receiving that payment yet.
He said that money would help, but the Federal Government needed to offer some form of income support for students during the crisis.
Another international student who has struggled to survive is Alejandro Montecimos who moved to Melbourne from Chile earlier this year for culinary studies.
He lost his part-time work because of coronavirus, when he tried to go home he couldn’t afford the high cost of a flight back.
He had someone connected with MCIE pay two weeks’ rent for him, but he is still running short of money.
“I am very nervous like everyone because I don’t know what will happen in the future,” he said.
Advocate says this is a ‘looming humanitarian crisis’
The National Union of Students welfare officer, Ali Amin, said there were international students across the country who were “trapped” in Australia, unable to go home and also unable to access income support from Australia.
“The question will be what happens to these students who can not return home, who do not have the option to work, that have to pay their course fees?” he said.
“It definitely would not be wrong to describe this as a humanitarian crisis in a developed country like Australia.
“Students will struggle, they will go hungry.”
Mr Amin said some universities had offered small amounts of relief funding for students, but more needed to be done.
He said many Australians assumed that international students were from wealthy families, but that wasn’t always the case.
He said many international students had borrowed money from banks in their home countries so they could study in Australia and were now struggling to meet repayments and survive.
Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump partially blocked immigration to the United States “to protect American workers” from the economic shock of the coronavirus, as the United Nations warned the world was facing “a humanitarian catastrophe”.
The UN alarm bell came as nations scrambled to not only fight the virus — which has killed 177,000 people and infected more than 2.5 million — but also desperately seek ways to limit the vast damage unleashed on the global economy.
With more than half of humanity under some form of lockdown, businesses shuttered and millions of jobs lost, the world is facing its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and the UN’s World Food Programme said it would hit the least privileged the hardest.
“I want to stress that we are not only facing a global health pandemic, but also a global humanitarian catastrophe,” the WFP executive director David Beasley told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.
“Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations… face being pushed to the brink of starvation.”
The WFP warned the number of people suffering from acute hunger was projected to nearly double to 265 million this year.
In the United States, where the economy is reeling and 22 million people have lost their jobs, Trump said he would stop the issuing of green cards for 60 days, but exempt temporary workers such as seasonal farm laborers.
“In order to protect American workers, I will be issuing a temporary suspension of immigration into the United States,” he said.
“It will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens.
“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans to be replaced with immigrant labor flown in from abroad.”
The US is the hardest-hit country in the world, with nearly 45,000 deaths and more than 800,000 coronavirus infections, and healthcare infrastructure in major hotspots like New York City has struggled to cope.
The huge patient numbers are also taking a toll on the mental health of doctors and nurses.
“The same thing every day… is draining,” said Heather Isola, a physician assistant.
“What is it going to do to us? The anxieties, the PTSD, the experience of death and dying. Most people haven’t seen death and dying like this.”
– Oktoberfest canceled –
In Europe, some countries have started easing lockdowns as the spread of the virus is slowly brought under control, but the cancellation of some of the world’s best-known events served as a reminder that the pandemic is far from over.
In Germany, where small shops have been allowed to reopen, authorities canceled this year’s Oktoberfest, the beloved beer-swilling festival in southern Bavaria, for the first time since World War II.
The German government’s restrictions on large gatherings also mean the Berlin Marathon will not go ahead as planned this year in September, organizers said.
Spain, which is set to allow children some movement in a week, said it was scrapping the annual bull-running festival in Pamplona.
The pandemic has ripped apart the global sports calendar, forcing most notably the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to next year.
German football authorities are expected to announce plans on Thursday for its top-level league to restart matches in empty stadiums on May 9.
But the Dutch football federation said it intended to end its season because of the extension of a ban on large gatherings.
Across the Atlantic in the United States, the NFL draft — a three-day annual glitzy marketplace to choose the top collegiate talent — will be held virtually from Thursday, with teams making their picks from remote locations across the country.
– ‘Now they die alone’ –
Global markets remain under intense pressure because of the pandemic.
With billions locked down, economies halted and travel extremely limited, a dramatic drop in the demand for oil has sent prices crashing in recent weeks. Major cuts promised by the world’s top producers have failed to stabilize the crude market.
The oil markets chaos has spooked stock markets too, with Asian indexes on Wednesday retreating after more heavy selling on Wall Street.
Extraordinary stimulus measures worth trillions of dollars gave some boost to markets, but have failed to lift the overall mood on trading floors.
Like with the food crisis warning from the WFP, the biggest impact of the loss of jobs and the overall economic downturn is being felt by the poorest — among them, the millions of migrant works from South Asia and elsewhere that toil in the Middle East to send money back home to their families.
The pandemic shutdowns mean even their bodies cannot be sent home, and are instead buried or cremated in the country where they die — often without their loved ones.
“The whole world is changing. Nobody comes anymore, nobody touches, nobody says goodbye,” said Ishwar Kumar, manager of a Hindu cremation ground south of Dubai.
Before the pandemic, “people would come here… to grieve and bring flowers. Now they die alone”.