Numerous groups and high-profile individuals have criticised the Australian government’s decision to threaten Aussies returning from India with jail time and enormous fines.
The government has described the move to penalise travellers returning to Australia from India with five years’ jail and/or a $66,000 fine as “drastic but necessary”. However, the ABC reports that critics are calling it unjustifiable and un-Australian, and pointing out that no travel ban was extended to places like the United States or Italy when they were in the grip of skyrocketing coronavirus cases.
Neha Madhok, co-director at anti-racism organisation Democracy in Colour, told P.TV that
Australia has never in its history denied citizens the ability to return home at the risk of jail time. Australia did not pause repatriation flights from ‘white’ countries like the United States of America, the UK, Spain or Italy when their numbers were soaring.
We’re more than a year into this pandemic and Scott Morrison still doesn’t have a consistent repatriation policy. And now he’s going so far as to criminalise people of Indian background who just want to return home to Australia.
We need consistent, evidence-based policy that ensures all Australians are able to return home safely. We don’t need one rule for people of colour and another for everyone else.
Other critics have called the government’s move draconian, and said that the government should focus its efforts on improving hotel quarantine measures rather than criminalising Australians who just want to come home.
Singing out India is blatantly racist. We should be organising mercy flights, sending drugs and hospital equipment, not abandoning Australians (who mostly happen to have brown skin) in a country with failing health infrastructure and a rampant epidemic.
— Paul Kidd (@paulkidd) April 30, 2021
The India variant is now in several countries including France and the UK. This will not stop it coming into our hotel quarantine system. These are our citizens, they deserve to be able to come home pic.twitter.com/NYNTIKbiue
— Ursula Heger (@ursulaheger) April 30, 2021
Questions have been raised about the legality of the travel pause as well, with Julia Kretzenbacher, president of civil rights group Liberty Victoria, saying that the government’s actions are “not the least restrictive or least intrusive way of protecting Australians”, and thus could be a violation of Australia’s international obligations.
Meanwhile the government is emphasising that the biosecurity measure is temporary in nature, and will be reviewed on May 15.
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