Many believe Australia has returned to its original status as a prison isle. Essentially, Australia’s borders are currently closed, and entry is only available if you are exempt or you have been granted an individual exemption. Notably, if an Australian leaves the country, they must complete a 14-day quarantine in a hotel upon return at their own expense. This strict approach has stifled COVID numbers, with only 30,422 Australians testing positive for the virus up to June 26th. However, critics are wondering when Australia’s closed borders will open this year, if at all. With only 5% of the population fully vaccinated and 2 in 3 people yet to get their first dose, the answer appears to be ‘not for a while’.
Britain, a commonwealth partner of Australia, have taken offence. This juxtaposes their approach to Australians; namely, Australian visitors are freely welcome into the United Kingdom. Of the 9.4m visitors to Australia in 2019, around half a million are British. Likewise, some in the English-speaking United States seem bewildered why Australia is keeping ‘its own citizens out’, albeit quarantine is not the same as an exile. About half a million Americans are tourists each year to Australia and represent $4bn a year in spending.
Last month, the more infectious Delta strain that raged in India prompted the Australian government to ban Australians from returning from India. Reports in India’s media were muted about this development, much to unexpected travellers’ surprise when they landed in Sydney. That was even if they were fortunate enough to board a plane. Many Indians felt that a possible jail term of five years and a fine of $66,000 was disproportionate if found breaching the travel ban. The Times of India reported that human rights organisations were calling the move racist; however, they failed to elaborate. They opined that threatening their own citizens with jail for the crime of returning to their country of citizenship was unique. That may be the case, but the law is the law and applies to everyone equally. In the meantime, those worried about travel into and out of Australia have to follow certain steps. For those wishing to enter from India, the government states that those seeking an exemption will only be approved for the following limited circumstances: (a) critical Indian workers assisting in Australia’s COVID-19 response, (b) Indians travelling in Australia’s national interest (c) Indians travelling due to the death or funeral of a close family member in Australia, (d) Indians visiting a close family member who is critically ill, and (e) Indians escorting an Australian citizen or permanent resident minor back to Australia, and where the parents of the child are currently in Australia. Exemptions automatically exist for Australian citizens and permanent residents.
Those affected should visit https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/travel-restrictions