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Brazilians seek right to travel to France for university studies

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian students and researchers launched a campaign this week urging the re-evaluation of the ban preventing them from traveling to France because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some 300 prospective students at French universities have been unable to travel to the European country since late April, when President Emmanuel Macron’s government removed student travel from Brazil from the list of exceptions for entering the country.

The movement ‘Étudier Est Impérieux’ (Studying is imperative), with pages in several social networks, draws attention to the issue (Photo internet reproduction)

Many of the affected students and researchers risk losing their invitation to study abroad or even scholarships. Therefore, the group created the movement ‘Étudier Est Impérieux’ (Studying is imperative), with pages in several social networks, to draw attention to the issue.

Researcher Caio Cesar Barbosa Bomfim, 31, has a PhD in Immunology from the University of São Paulo’s (USP) Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICB) and was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at Paris’ Cochin Institute to research topics related to the HIV virus. However, the São Paulo native was unable to secure his visa to take up the post.

“It was a long and very competitive process, as the position I was applying for was for a post-doctorate in an internationally renowned laboratory,” says Caio, who should have initiated his course on May 1 and now fears losing the funding received by a European research agency due to delays. “My future supervisor in Paris managed to leave my contract open for a few weeks, but he doesn’t know how much longer he can wait. I am afraid of losing this great opportunity, which demanded such a long time of hard study and preparation.”

Brazil is currently on France’s list of high-risk countries for Covid-19 infection, and therefore travelers coming from Brazilian cities are not allowed to cross the border. But the French government maintains a list of reasons considered imperative for travel, which are basically exceptions to the ban, and until April 26 students or researchers accepted in local universities would fit these criteria.

However, a change removed study from the list of essencial travel reasons, and it has been banned since then. The French Embassy and Consulates in Brazil have also suspended the issuing of study and research visas.

So far, 290 students and researchers have signed a letter that will be forwarded to the French Ministers of the Interior, of Foreign Affairs and of Higher Education, Research and Innovation urging a reassessment of the rule. The group includes undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and post-doctoral students. All of them have passed the application process and are only waiting for the reopening of visa issuance and the clearing of border restrictions to start their studies.

Despite having a compelling reason, anyone entering French territory must present a negative PCR test for coronavirus, undergo a test at the airport, and complete a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Isolation is controlled by the police, who pay random visits to the address submitted. Students say they are willing to comply with all regulations should they be allowed to travel to France again.

“There is no guarantee that universities or projects will be able to accept us after the deadline, or reserve our place for next year,” says Leandro Otávio de Souza, 27, who secured a spot to take a master’s degree in Advanced Methods of Industrial Engineering at the Clermont Auvergne University.

Most Brazilian students accepted in French universities should start their courses in the second half of August or in September. With the reopening of most cities in the country and the easing of quarantine, the majority of institutions will resume in-person classes, abandoning the hybrid model in force until the first semester this year.

“The application process is quite long and was very stressful. We invested financially and psychologically in this and we don’t want to waste this opportunity,” says Leandro, who needs to register in person by September 30 in Clermont-Ferrand in order not to lose his place.

The Brazilian students’ campaign drew the attention of Senator Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, from the French Republican Party. On her Twitter page, the politician supported the movement and called for the inclusion of university study travel in the government’s list of exceptions. “There is no reason to prevent students from continuing their university career, particularly if they are vaccinated and undergo testing!” she wrote.

In addition to Brazil, other countries are also currently on France’s high-risk red list, including Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Turkey, Uruguay, and South Africa.

When contacted, the French Embassy in Brazil did not reply to a request for further information on the restrictions in place.

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