Foreign students in Australia queue for free food

Foreign students in Australia queue for free food
STRUGGLING: Some international students have been queueing for free meals organised by the Salvation Army in Melbourne for the homeless.

Struggling international students from Malaysia and South America have been queueing for free meals organised by the Salvation Army in Melbourne for the homeless.

Up to 50 international students queue for soup kitchen-style lunch at the Salvation Army's city drop-in centre every week day with the homeless.

And about 20 hungry students turn up for breakfast, reported The Brisbane Times.

Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle said that these students, many from South American countries and Malaysia, would go hungry without the free meals.

He noted that these students were in a "desperate situation" and they had only begun seeking meals from the drop-in centre in the past six months.

He said: "They have real difficulty making ends meet, many are exploited in the workforce and are getting paid AUD$7 (S$7.40) an hour. Gambling is also an issue for some international students."

The report did not provide a breakdown of the Malaysian students who frequent the soup kitchens.

He was explaining why the Salvation Army was feeding international students on top of the homeless.

"When you hear their stories you realise this is one of the groups who really need these services. They are in a desperate situation. People don't come here if they don't need to," he said.

The report said that many of these students are living in unsuitable accommodation and studying at private colleges.

And these private colleges often do not have the same level of welfare support as universities.

Some students who were interviewed said they felt ashamed about their situation and did not want to bother their parents back home.

Hungry

One Colombian student, who studies English at a private college and also works casually as a cleaner, said he was often hungry.

The 31-year-old said he queued for free meals so he could pay his rent.

"The agencies said everything here is going to be ok. But here, it is different," he said.

Veronica, 28, a student from El Salvador, said there was a misconception that international students were wealthy.

She said: "They don't realise that a lot of our parents pay for us to come here and pay for our things. They think we carry all this cash, but it's not like that. We struggle to make ends meet."

Council of International Students Australia president Thomson Ch'ng, a Malaysian, said that Australia was the most expensive place to study in the world.

He said international students often struggled with the high cost of living, especially accommodation costs.


This article was first published on Feb 17, 2015.
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