By Julie Owens

11 May 2021

India is in the grip of one of the worst humanitarian crises of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At time of writing there are more than 20 million confirmed cases and more than 220,000 people have died. The second wave has overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system, which is facing a critical shortage of medical oxygen.

Last week Scott Morrison abandoned the almost 10,000 Australians who have been caught in this crisis when he made it unlawful for them to return to Australia.

This unprecedented decision means that an Australian citizen who attempts to return from India faces heavy fines and up to five years in prison.

There has been an enormous outcry in Australia and around the world at this decision, which the Prime Minister justified on the grounds that it would ensure “our quarantine system can remain strong.”

And there’s the rub. Despite the fact that Australia’s borders are the responsibility of the Federal Government, Scott Morrison has been AWOL on quarantine since the beginning of the pandemic.

His failure to deliver on quarantine has left too many Australians – 35,000 at last count - stranded overseas for far too long.

Now, instead of coming up with a plan to help them all get to safety, the Morrison Government has totally abandoned nearly a third of these Australians in an escalating crisis.

I’ve started a petition calling on the Government to:

  1. Cancel the ban on and penalties for Australians returning from India.
  2. Ensure travel restrictions are based on health advice and time-limited.
  3. Establish safe, national quarantine to ensure the safety of Australians at home and overseas.
  4. Take immediate action to help stranded Australians in India and around the world to return to safety.

You can add your voice to the call by signing the petition and sharing it with your friends and family.

Scott Morrison has already walked back threats of jail time and stressed that repatriation flights will resume on 15 May.

But it’s long been clear that the Morrison Government needs to set up national quarantine to ensure the safety of all Australians, both at home and overseas.

It’s also clear that the Australian Government should be doing everything it possibly can to help Australians come home – like ensuring sufficient flights, including additional repatriation flights; looking at options to vaccinate Australians left behind in the high-risk situation in India; and providing extra financial support to those most vulnerable.

Anything less is unacceptable – and un-Australian.