Exclusive: Due to the travel ban in Spain, Indian students have to wait to travel and are feeling discriminated

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Not long ago, Indian administration started off a separate vaccination drive for Indian students who are planning to travel overseas for academics. The move is highly appreciated by the students and their families as it cleared one of the main hurdles in their way. But to their surprise, another obstacle just came in and halted the procedure. According to the students, travelling Spain for studies are facing visa issuance problem. Since India is experiencing delta variant cases too from last month, the result of mutation in corona virus, it has put India on red list that prohibits Spain administration to issue study visa to Indian students.

Shivani Patel who is travelling for her masters and due to the opportunities in the field of Artificial intelligence and Data science and the thriving start-up culture to Spain, told Eat News, ‘Till April 2021, the embassies and consulates for almost all EU countries were open and were issuing visas, but since the course start in September, we cannot apply for the same prior to 3 months. With the second wave, India was put on the red list and issuance of study visas was stopped. Spain et al are allowing tourists from UK and US and other countries where delta variant is spread too but not students from India.’

According to global monitoring website, by the beginning of June thousands of delta cases were identified in US, along with Germany, UK, Spain and Denmark. Delta variant was first discovered in India by October 2020 and later two minor changes were noticed in it. It is now considered as dominant strain worldwide as per experts but if number of nations are witnessing cases of variant, then why only Indian students are not permitted study visa despite of all necessary and mentioned precautions by Spain.

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Anubhav Srivastava is a recipient of the Marie Curie ENLIGHTEN Fellowship and is selected for Ph.D. position at the Institute of Photonic Sciences, Barcelona. It is a huge thing for him and it will be a major setback if he will be denied this opportunity. He quoted Eat News, ‘Now, we have a drastically lesser and decreasing number of cases still, there is no update in this application. My institute is considerate enough to allow me a bit of flexibility in my joining date but there is a limit since it is an externally funded position. My contract will not start unless I am physically present there. Therefore, until the travel restrictions are relaxed and visa applications are not accepted, I am stuck.’    

Students from different background and with individual motives travelling to Spain have decided to unite and raise their voice on wherever platform they can to make it reach to as many people and especially to the authorities who are capable of making these decisions. They have a petition on Change.org for lifting the travel ban on Indians for Spain which has crossed 1200 signatures. They also have a petition for the whole of EU to lift the travel ban that has around 2500 signatures so far. Apart from it, students are constantly tweeting about the issue with #studyisessential for the past 2 weeks.

Iswarya Sreeram, a masters graduate in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from Lithuania, European Union is going for the position of Research assistant at Bellvitge Institute of Biomedical Research, Barcelona, Spain. She said, ‘Our only request is to be treated with equity on that basis. It is disappointing to see one side of the world willingly being let in but the other side has to beg and plead for it- even if we are fully vaccinated by Spain approved vaccine Covishield.’ She further added, ‘How can one accept fully vaccinated people from the UK for tourism but not fully vaccinated Indian students, researchers and workers and are not considered as ‘essential travel’, said Iswarya.  

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Rhea Bhansali is an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Scholar, awarded a joint degree in Hydro informatics and Water Science Management by the EU commission. She talked about the other option available of going virtual during this time and said, ‘There’s no provision for deferral and can be bestowed upon one person, only once in their entire lifetime. The university cannot provide online classes since I am only 1 out of 5 others who have gotten this scholarship whose first country of mobility is Spain, and laboratory work cannot be conducted online.’ She shared about the efforts she put in for getting this opportunity. ‘The application process was free but I have invested over a million $ in my education to prepare myself mentally, emotionally, professionally and financially which led me to receive this scholarship’, said Rhea. Rhea ended it with a hope and said, ‘I just hope the Spanish authorities take notice of what their counterparts such as France and UK are doing, and extend their hospitality to Indians as well’.

It is no longer a domestic matter but an international one that will impact future of Indian students if not solved. Students need support and interference of high authorities to look into the matter and come up with a solution as soon as possible.

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Shefali Ranawat is an Eat News correspondent in India. She want to be the voice of people. Also, she aim to be a war correspondent.


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