Australia has made it illegal for anyone who’s been in India in the past 14 days to enter the country, including Australian citizens and residents desperately trying to escape a devastating health crisis. Anyone attempting to do so faces five years in jail and brutal fines.
In the opinion of GSTP, this is the most egregious and awful breach of trust between a country and its citizens during the pandemic, and a shameful way to treat humanity. I find it abhorrent, particularly, while other countries and private businesses fly directly into the face of the crisis to lend support to this loving nation.
Why so awful? Because if not for anything else, Australia already has robust protocols in place to stop importation of covid-19, with rigorous 14 day quarantines for all – well, except celebrities. Australia never took such steps as outbreaks swept Europe, the USA and other areas.
Australia Abandons Indian Citizens And Residents
Prior to the tragic rise of covid-19 in India, Australia already had measures in place to prevent the importation of covid-19. It’s not like people get to just walk in, and in fact it’s one of the most closed off countries in the world.
This is simply abandonment of citizens and residents and sends a horrible message to people around the world, who live, love or work in places other than their passport issuer or nationality.
Update: in response to international condemnation and backlash, Australia has ended this detestable policy.
Entering Australia During Covid-19
I’d love to enter Australia, I’ve wanted to all year. The country is enjoying life almost as it was, before the times when everyone became an infectious diseases expert on social media, and covid-19 ravaged the world. Sadly, I’m not allowed to enter.
I hold an American passport and am barred. Australia, fo the most part, has only allowed citizens to return home during the pandemic and does not allow travelers to leave, with the exception of a “bubble” with New Zealand.
All travelers face 14 days of supervised and monitored hotel quarantine at a great expense, which science says stops importation risk. Basically no on is going out into the Australian public after arrival, until experts agree they’re covid-19 free.
To the dismay of many, the country was already seen as duplicitous about the pandemic, making it extremely hard for citizens to return home, but incredibly easy for American celebrities to be granted entry exemptions, and also exemptions to the 14 day hotel quarantine. To many, this was and is shameful. Even the BBC covered it.
India Crisis: True Australian Shame
When disaster strikes, it’s often where people learn to appreciate their passport most. Direct flights may get banned, but great countries step in to help get people “home”, or create exemptions to make those who find their own way eligible.
Be it an environmental disaster or public health crisis, well organized countries go to bat for their citizens, sending planes, aide and anything else needed to make paying taxes and following the laws of a nation feel worth it. Note to Australia: this applies to all citizens and residents, not just ones of select pigmentation or origin.
It often involves large military transport and tremendous organizational efforts to rescue citizens from harms way, but it’s what makes a nation great.
While countries around the world selflessly fly supplies, aid and help into India at their own risk, including private companies like Virgin Atlantic which rallied around a group of Indian pilots to send help, Australia is abandoning its citizens and residents in India, setting a horrible precedent for the world.
They’ll face jail for trying to escape a crisis and help is not coming for them over the mountain. No Boeing C-17 Globemaster jets loaded with aid for India and seats to get large numbers of Australians in India “home”. Just abandonment in the simplest terms.
In my opinion, it doesn’t get any more shameful. But then again, for an Australia Government often accused of racism, sexism, misogyny and double standards, it’s probably just another day at the office. I’ll go ahead and say what I feel: it’s racist.
Australia never made it illegal for Australian citizens or residents to return “home” when tremendous waves of infection struck across Europe, the United States and other parts of the globe. On that basis, how can it not be racist, now that they have, just for India – stranding Indian-Australians, but not others?
Separated From Country: Not Ok
However necessary, travel bans have been sad enough throughout the covid-19 pandemic, but in each and every case, exemptions to any rules have always existed for citizens, residents and immediate family. If you want to return to your home country, you can. That’s always been an international standard.
My family in America had a health scare this year, and being in the UK, I highly valued and appreciated that my passport could allow my immediate family and I home at any moment, at the drop of a hat.
Like Australia, the USA and Canada have a ban on flights from India, but US citizens, residents, immediate family and a variety of other ‘essential’ or visa driven exemptions exist for people trying to leave India, so that no person with ‘right of return’ shall be separated from that right.
Seeing the way the US, and other countries have arranged repatriation transport for people when commercial flights weren’t even viable, gave me faith in the institutions of government, taxation and never abandoning a fellow countryman.
It just makes this Australia situation all the more despicable. Quarantine hotels with robust testing and safety protocols already exist. They managed to make them work for thousands of Australian Open participants from around the world, coming for the sole purpose of making money.
Yet, they can’t rescue citizens and residents from harms way, desperately trying to reach safer land during a time of crisis. “This is an outrageous response. Australians have a right of return to their own country,” offered Elaine Pearson, Director of Human Rights Watch Australia.
Lost Respect For A Great Nation
What’s the military for? What’s all the science in place at Australian borders and hotel quarantines for? What if there’s a great health crisis in Australia and everyone wants out? Should India and others then come to the rescue, after this?
I had great respect for Australia’s difficult decisions in getting the country to a nearly pre-pandemic state, but now temporarily find nothing but hate and vitriol for a country I’ve loved, which seems to have clear disdain for its Indian community.
While private companies and countries around the world send crews and planes in to help, Australia won’t even let people find their way home. At least, not without jail and fines.
Does Australia not value its Indian community, or understand the fact that Australians may work in India to provide for opportunity for their families? We’re living through truly ugly times. I send love and hope for better days to India, and shame to Australia today.