Thousands sign petition calling for return of international students to Australia
Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the Australian government to let international students back into the country.
As of Saturday afternoon the petition had garnered more than 5,700 signatures - the second-most of current position addressed to the lower house of Australian Parliament, the House of Representatives.
Australia's lucrative international education industry has been devastated by the government's decision to close the country's borders in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"International students suffer terribly from the travel ban," the petition said. "High school students cannot go to school. University students struggle with online lessons with bad quality. We are forced to defer because of invalid internships and in-person courses."
"Lots of students do not have online classes and they have to be exempted to enter Australia to schools as soon as possible," it said.
"International students contribute millions of dollars to the Australian community and benefit Aussie society in various areas.
"International students are willing to quarantine, obey any rules and pay all the fees."
More than 60 international students arrived in the Northern Territory (NT) in December as part of a pilot program, becoming the first students to enter Australia in March.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November ruled out allowing students to enter Australia in large numbers until more than 35,000 citizens and residents stranded overseas were repatriated.
"There is a queue and Australians are at the front of the queue," he said at the time.
The weekly cap on international arrivals to Australia was temporarily slashed by more than 2,000 per week earlier in January in response to fears over the mutant strain of COVID-19.