As the Australian government has banned travel from India amid an exponential surge in Covid cases, concerned representatives of the Indian diaspora in the island nation expressed regret over the decision. Indian diaspora representatives and State and Federal Greens MPs questioned the decision saying that the Australian government did not block flights from the US and Europe when the Covid situation was ‘going haywire’ in these countries.
Representatives from across the Indian diaspora in Australia, together with State and Federal Greens MPs, called for an “immediate end to the Coalition Government’s India travel ban.”
Speakers during an online press conference shared the real impacts the Australian government’s travel ban is having on Australian residents with family, friends and colleagues in India, together with how the discriminatory ban is perceived by the Indian Australian community.
Speakers included Amar Singh, President and Founder of Turbans 4 Australia, Mehreen Faruqi Greens NSW Senator, Vikrant Kishore, Academic, filmmaker and co-founder of South Asians for Inclusiveness, Meraj Khan, Co-founder of the Humanism Project, and David Shoebridge, NSW Greens MP.
On the occasion, Amar Singh, the President and Founder of Turbans 4 Australia said, “It is appalling to see Indian Australians have been deserted by their Government, their own home.”
“The COVID loans the Government is offering are $2,000 which doesn’t even cover your quarantine, why isn’t it $10,000?,” Singh said, adding, “Medical facilities in India require an Indian Passport or Photo ID, Australian citizens don’t have them and are turned away.”
Vikrant Kishore, Academic, filmmaker and co-founder of South Asians for Inclusiveness said the “blocking of flights, this new iron curtain, has been just heartbreaking.”
“When things were going haywire in Europe and the USA, Australia never responded by blocking flights – so people are asking: Why India?” he questioned.
Another speaker Meraj Khan, Co-founder of the Humanism Project said, “People here are living with survivors guilt, people over there are affected because they can’t get back to their partners. Not one single person back home has not been affected by COVID.”
Khan highlighted the unfair processing time for the partner visas for people in a relationship who have been separated already for the last 12 months.
“I feel the Australian Government must bring in an exemption to allow submitted and visa approved partners to come back and join their families,” Khan said.
Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi expressed sadness over the current situation in India.
“My heart goes out to everyone in India who is suffering the horrific impacts of the current wave of Covid-19,” he said.
Faruqi criticized the government’s recent decision to threaten returning Australian citizens and permanent residents with jail time and called it “absolutely horrific, discriminatory and racist.”
“Healthcare is a human right. Your visa, citizenship or Covid status shouldn’t change that. Australia should be flying people back home urgently and covering the cost of flights and quarantine. Any sick citizens or permanent residents should also be brought home for treatment,” Faruqi said, and added, “We must also do everything we can to provide aid and assistance to India at this time of dire need.”
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said that “Australian citizens in India are excluded from the Indian Government’s vaccination scheme but are also blocked from coming home. “It’s a deadly catch-22,” he said.
“It is so deeply distressing to the large and diverse Indian community in Australia that their family members can’t get home and that as COVID rages in India they can’t even get vaccinated,” Shoebridge said.
“The cost of flights home is prohibitive as is the cost of quarantine, but the Australian citizens trapped there, for the most part, cannot work,” he said, and added, “Given the upcoming lifting of the border ban there needs to be a repatriation payment made available to citizens so they can get home.”