As we know, Australia last month implemented a travel ban on China, which at the time left more than 106,000 Chinese students unable to enter Australia to commence their studies.
Last week, it was revealed that 32,000 Chinese students had circumvented this ban, at a rate of around 1,000 arrivals a day, via travelling to third countries like Thailand and Dubai where they spent 14 days in purported ‘self-isolation’ prior to travelling into Australia:
Since mid-February, 31,196 Chinese students have landed in Australia, Department of Home Affairs figures show. In recent weeks, up to 1000 students a day have been arriving to start or return to their studies…
Mr Honeywood said the number of arrivals was “definitely encouraging” but noted there were still 75,000 students stuck offshore who were missing out on studies and potentially looking to study in other countries, including Britain and Canada, which had not imposed travel bans.
Tips on travelling to Australia via third countries have been shared widely on Chinese social media, with the United Arab Emirates, Cambodia and Thailand popular options for the 14-day wait.
This circumvention of the travel ban was of course aided and abetted by several universities, which offered grants of up to $7,500 to Chinese students to help fund travel packages to third-country transit destinations.
Subsequent social media posts showed examples of Chinese students ignoring self-isolation and instead partying and dining out, thereby exposing themselves (and by extension Australians) to contracting the coronavirus.
Indeed, last month a 20-year-old student from China tested positive for coronavirus in Queensland and was placed in isolation in the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. This student had travelled to Dubai for at least two weeks before entering Australia via Brisbane on February 23.
While this particular student was not a recipient of a university grant, it is a pertinent example of how the universities have greatly increased the risk of the coronavirus spreading through Australia via international students circumventing the travel ban.
Sydney University Associate Professor, Salvatore Babones, rightly labelled the universities’ grants “morally indefensible” because they risk spreading the virus through poor, vulnerable countries like Thailand, in addition to Australia:
Associate Professor Salvatore Babones, from libertarian think-tank the Centre for Independent Studies, said it was “morally indefensible to encourage thousands of Chinese youngsters to travel at this difficult time, especially when they would be transiting through poor, vulnerable countries like Thailand”.
“It is thoroughly unethical for a university to encourage students to undertake risky, refugee-style travel in order to slip into Australia through a third country backdoor.”
Basically, Australia’s universities are behaving like people smugglers, risking the health of the Australian public in order to protect their treasured international student ‘cash cow’.
These shenanigans also highlight the entrenched ‘moral hazard’ that has infected Australia’s universities.
By encouraging students to circumvent the travel bans, they are seeking to privatise the gains from the extra international students fees. But if/when these students spread the virus through the broader community, it is the Australian taxpayers that will pay the costs via the increased burden on the health system, sickness and potentially deaths.