International Students “Neglected” During Lockdown

International Students “Neglected” During Lockdown

Government seems to have forgotten that international students exist

Major avenues for international students to get financial support have been shut down by the Government, with no replacement in sight. The New Zealand International Students’ Association (NZISA) have claimed this shows international students are being “neglected” by both the Government and education providers during this lockdown.

In May last year, partially in response to lobbying from NZISA, the Government established an International Student Hardship Fund. It allowed organisations such as education providers or charities to apply for funding to support international students. In addition, the Government worked with the Red Cross to provide benefits to people on temporary visas unable to return home or support themselves. Both of those schemes have since ended - with the emergency benefit scheme ending on August 31. 

While support for domestic students continues, the NZISA says this shows that “international students aren’t a valued community in New Zealand, and it shows a complete disregard for the immense contributions international students make to the country.” 

In a statement from November 2020, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said: “Temporary visa holders granted Emergency Benefit are expected to actively look for work or other ways to support themselves, including returning home when they can.” 

However, the NZISA says that “most of our members deem it unrealistic to abandon their studies and return to their home country”. And although international students are often willing to work, “it has been ever more challenging in the middle of a nationwide lockdown with numerous work restrictions prescribed by Immigration New Zealand on our student visas.” Even students wanting to work in essential services, such as vaccination teams, have been “discriminated against” and “ignored” in favour of domestic students. 

In response, the NZISA is pushing for more freedom for international students wanting to work in essential services, including removing working hour restrictions (following the lead of Canada). They say this would “enable many international students to support themselves through the lockdown,” while giving them “an equal opportunity to support the country’s pandemic response”. 


(Non-exhaustive) support services for international students:

Otago University Pūtea Tautoko Hardship Fund: Covid-19 related aid, apply through eVision

OUSA Hardship Fund: apply via OUSA website, up to $250

Dunedin City Council Consumer Electricity Fund: contact OUSA Student Support, up to $350 for electricity bills

Foodbanks: contact the Salvation Army (03-4779852), Presbyterian Support FamilyWorks (0508-396678), St. Vincent de Paul Society (03-4770555)

Mental health support: freephone or text 1737; or Asian Family Services for multilingual support (0800-862342)

Immigration New Zealand Repatriation Fund: can help pay for flights home if you or your country’s embassy cannot; contact your embassy in NZ for a letter of support first

This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2021.
Posted 1:41pm Sunday 5th September 2021 by Denzel Chung and Fox Meyer.