ABU DHABI // The waiting time for a student visa to Australia has been slashed from three months to 14 days and moves are under way to ease the process for all Emiratis.
The deal was announced after a meeting yesterday between Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, and the Australian foreign minister Bob Carr.
"We have just discussed this issue and we are looking to facilitate easier entry of Emiratis to Australia," Sheikh Abdullah said.
"This process takes a long time and, just as we have been engaging with the Schengen countries and others for years, it will take time, but things are looking positive."
Young Emiratis are the first to benefit. "From the moment students hand in their full documents, the process would be complete in 14 days or less," Mr Carr said.
The Australian ambassador, Pablo Kang, said 1,040 Emiratis were studying in Australia last year. "The year before that, 20 per cent of all Emirati overseas students studied in Australia," he said.
Mr Carr is here to establish the UAE-Australia Joint Cooperation Committee, which will result in regular meetings between the two ministers in Abu Dhabi and Canberra. The committee will discuss issues such as security and human trafficking. "The UAE has been showing an impressive record and cooperation in people smuggling, and illegal migration issues are very important to us," Mr Carr said.
This year the UAE joined the Bali Process, an international framework to combat human trafficking.
The process, co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia, was initiated in 2002, and more than 50 countries and numerous international agencies participate.
"The UAE has achieved notable developments in combating human trafficking and have already been observers of the Bali Process and active in it," the Australian parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, Richard Marles, said.
"Many travellers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran come to Australia via the UAE, so the UAE's cooperation is a boost in combating human trafficking."
On the crisis in Syria, Mr Carr said Australia, which has a place on the United Nations Security Council, was lobbying to supply medical aid to civilians and sought greater protection for health workers.
"We are pushing a plan to fly in medical aid and to protect doctors and nurses," he said.
No international medical aid is being delivered in Syria and the only source of medical assistance is through smuggled materials, local aid agencies or government hospitals.
Sheikh Abdullah said Bashar Al Assad's regime has to realise the seriousness of the international community's position and called on security council members to agree on the medical aid proposal.
"We want to resolve the situation … the security council members have not even agreed on terms to get medical aid in and we have to push for a unified stand on this proposal," he said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties last week started hearings on approving the UAE-Australia Nuclear Treaty signed in July last year.
The committee has heard concerns raised by some experts calling for the denial of the treaty, on grounds of supposed human rights issues in the UAE.
However, Mr Carr said he believed the parliamentary committee would approve the treaty.
"I feel confident that the agreement will meet the approval of the committee," he said. "Both sides of the parliament feel comfortable with the relationship with the UAE.
"The UAE has taken positive steps, with an independent nuclear regulator and an independent international advisory board.
"Concerns on labour issues or human rights is a big leap … a commonsense approach is taken with these things."