A STUDENT living in Cork has highlighted concerns for international students studying in Ireland after she had to pay for Mandatory Hotel Quarantine twice when returning to Cork.
University College Cork (UCC) student Imasha Costa flew home to Bahrain last month and had not been home since before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following her experience, she said she believes some international students are “afraid” to return home.
After a layover on her flight back to Ireland, Imasha was denied boarding as she did not have hotel quarantine booked for her next stop in the UK as she had been in a red list country.
She had been vaccinated while in Bahrain with a vaccine that has not yet been approved in Europe.
“I thought I was vaccinated so I should be grand, but they didn’t let me get on my flight because I didn’t have mandatory hotel quarantine booked."
Speaking on the experience, she said: “I was just there like, I’m a woman by myself, I’m only 20. I didn’t know what was going on. I was panicking. I was so upset, so scared.”
The cost of 12 days of hotel quarantine in the UK was approximately €2,000.
Imasha also had to complete and pay for hotel quarantine for a shorter period in Dublin as she had been in a designated state within the previous 14 days.
She said the total cost for both was approximately €3,000.
“That was tuition money for second year,” she said.
The Department of Health said only if someone is fully vaccinated with an EMA approved vaccine and have the documents to prove that, they do not have to complete hotel quarantine.
Imasha described the situation and her journey in getting back to Cork as “insane”.
“Cork is home to me. It’s like coming back home, but I went to go see my mam because she was after [having] surgery and I had to go mind her for a bit and see if she was ok. I hadn’t gone home in two years.”
As she is currently working to pay back the costs, she said she does not think she will be able to make it home anytime soon. She said she believes this is a concern for others.
UCC has around 3,300 international students a year though numbers have yet to be finalised for the forthcoming academic year.
“I’m pretty sure there are people who are afraid to go home or afraid to go back because having to pay, first of all, a lot of money for hotel quarantine even though they are vaccinated, but I also think there is genuinely fear in people to go back home,” she said.
“Some of them do go home and they get an EU-approved dose or something like that, but many don’t have that luxury.”
She said she feels the consideration of international students as students in Ireland is something that has been missing.
“We are as much students as an Irish student or an EU student.”
Universities are finalising a revised protocol in relation to the arrival of international students which will include a greet and transfer service from airports.
As part of the international arrival scheme nationally, zero credit sim chips will also be made available to students.
A spokesperson for UCC said they have prepared a dedicated course for international students to support their transition into the university.
“In addition, a range of helpful videos have been developed to ensure that they are very well prepared for their journey. International students, like all students, will also benefit from an orientation programme prior to the commencement of their course.
“UCC is deeply conscious that it is a challenging period for students and has close to 50 services that operate to support student needs during this time.”
The Department of Further and Higher Education said it has no plans to pay the mandatory hotel quarantine costs of international students.
It will however cover the cost for Erasmus+ participants at all levels who are returning to Ireland directly from countries on the quarantine list.
This covers all Erasmus+ participants registered in institutions in the State, regardless of nationality.
This policy decision does not include incoming Erasmus+ students.