An Indian-origin Australian citizen, Sonali Ralhan, has written an open letter accusing the Australian government of “abandoning” a permanent resident to die of coronavirus in India.
Sonali’s father, 59, a permanent resident for more than 10 years, often travelled back to India where he managed a hotel in New Delhi.
Sonali wrote in her open letter posted to Facebook on May 6:
“I write to you with so much anger brewing inside me. I am an Australian citizen and highly disappointed to be one today. What nation disowns their own citizens? (It) is a matter of wonder for the entire world.”
In her open letter to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Sonali said she contacted embassy officials in India.
She says her pleas for help were largely ignored and consular officials only called her mother periodically.
“My mum had talked to them a few times, to ask if there’s anything that they can do, because at one point my father really needed a ventilator and we couldn’t find it anywhere…We contacted the embassy in a desperate situation, but all they could say was ‘we’re really sorry, but we cannot do anything’. They just said they could keep checking on my mum and informing me.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has extended her sympathies to the family, who she did not identify. She told 2GB radio:
“Let me extend my sympathy, and that of the government, to the family of this person and to so many families that we know are dealing with what is an extraordinary challenge, with infection rates surging. There are very many families dealing with this challenge.”
Sonali says that she had “great hopes” that Australian officials would help her parents return safely home to Australia.
Instead, she was left divested with the news of her father’s death.
Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell recently told a senate committee that DFAT was providing assistance to the family of a permanent resident who had died in India but had not yet confirmed the cause.
“The department’s aware and providing consular assistance in accordance with its charter to the family of an Australian permanent resident who reportedly has died in India, and I’m advised that owing to our privacy obligations we won’t be providing any further comment.”
Sonali Ralhan is now calling for the federal government to intervene and bring home her mother.
She says that her mother is dealing with her grief alone and completely isolated from her children and her community in Australia.
“All I have left is my mother, who has been abandoned by her own government of Australia, with no way to come back to her children. We all want to cry our hearts out, but we are saving them for when we are all together again. With your current actions, there is not much to expect, but all I ask is to bring my mother home and gather the broken pieces of our souls together.”
As a result of the escalating COVID19 cases in India, the Australian government has recently banned all flights from India .
The PM has even announced anyone – including citizens – who attempted to defy the new rules would be hit with fines of up to $66,600 or five years in prison, or both.
It is estimated that more than 9000 Australians are in India registered as wanting to return home.