‘Make your way home’, PM tells visa holders
People visiting Australia or foreign students who are unable to support themselves due to the coronavirus crisis should go home, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.
He said the country must focus at present on its citizens and residents.
"These (student) visas, and those who are in Australia under various visa arrangements, they are obviously not held here compulsorily," he told reporters in Canberra today after a National Cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders.
"If they are not in a position to support themselves then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries.
"We still have quite a number of people who are here on visitor visas.
"As much as it is lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this if you're a visitor in this country, it is time, as it has been now for some while - and I know many visitors have - to make your way home and to ensure that you can receive the supports that are available ... in your home countries."
Mr Morrison said anyone in Australia from overseas who wanted to work in fruit picking and other such seasonal agricultural employment would be required to self-isolate for 14 days before travelling to "another part of the country".
He said it was to avoid a "lift up of the virus" from metropolitan areas, where it is more prevalent, to "more vulnerable" rural or regional areas.
"This is being done to ensure that those producers can get the work done but also to ensure that the communities are protected," the Prime Minister said.
He said accommodation for workers must also adhere to strict health and social distancing requirements.
"You can't have six backpackers in a caravan up out in rural parts of the country," Mr Morrison said.
"That's not on. Not going to happen."
He said Immigration Minister David Coleman will "have more to say about other visa holders" and arrangements by the federal government in the coming days.
"People should know though, in particular for students, all students who come to Australia in their first year have to give a warranty that they are able to support themselves for the first 12 months of their study," Mr Morrison said.
"That is a requirement for their visa when they come for the first year. That is not an unreasonable expectation of the government that students would be able to fulfil the commitment that they gave."
However, he noted restrictions on student nurses in Australia had been lifted and "some 20,000 additional student nurses then became available into our health system".
"For those backpackers who are nurses or doctors or have other critical skills that can really help us during this crisis then there will be opportunities for them as well," the Prime Minister said on Friday.
"But our focus and our priority is on supporting Australians and Australian residents with the economic supports that are available."
Originally published as Visa holders told 'make your way home'