Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has categorically denied that the decision on a travel ban from Inda was racist, but many human rights activists and legal experts are still raising their concerns over fine and jail terms for returning Australians.
Talking to the media on Sunday Ms Payne said, “The decision which has been made under the biosecurity act on the basis of the advice of the Chief Medical Officer is a temporary pause on returns. And is entirely founded on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer.”
When asked if the decision is immoral or even racist, Ms Payne said, “Absolutely not in any way.”
“What is most important is that it is temporary. We absolutely recognised the very, very difficult circumstances occurring in India right now. Absolutely recognise that She further explained.
Molina Swaroop Asthana is Principal at Swaroop Asthana Lawyers and Co-Founder and Convenor of the Asian Australian Alliance, National Vice President of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association and Vice President of the Law Institute of Victoria.
Ms Asthana told The Australia Today, “The unjustified and harsh penalties imposed on the return of Australians from India is an unprecedented Act to target particular communities and is racial in nature. No such ban, let alone penalties were imposed on returning Australians from any other country. This is nothing new. Systemic racism has been the fabric of Australia.”
However, Ms Payne claimed the COVID19 positivity rate of arrivals from India was 57 per cent, which was placing a significant burden on health and medical services in the states and territories and through the quarantine program.
“So it is a very targeted temporary period of time, it will be reviewed on 15 May and In fact, we had eight flights booked to return Australians from India. That has been a very important part of returning Australian process. Once the 15 May review occurs, we will then plan what the resumption of those flights looks like and if we are able to increase them.”
Molina Swaroop Asthana refutes, “The ban and the penalties must also satisfy section 477 of the Biosecurity Act under which the ban has been enacted. The section states that the measure has to be ‘appropriate’ and ‘no more restrictive or instructive than is required in the circumstances. The current ban is neither appropriate nor required in the circumstances.”
Dr Vyom Sharma is a GP in Melbourne.
He called these travel ban from India as disproportionate, hurtful and unethical.
“The Chief Medical Officer will provide us with updated advice and the government will review that in accordance with the commitment that we’ve made, Said Ms Payne.
Australia did not put such ban and threats to jail on the UK, US and South African travellers when the infection rate of returning travellers from these countries was more than 20-30 per cent. Some health experts also suggest that the South African variant, UK variant, the Brazilian variant are all incredibly infectious arguably more than the Indian variant.
Well, 57 per cent of the infections in quarantine had come from returned travellers from India. In contrast to just the month before, 10 per cent of infections. The burden that has placed on the health systems in the states and territories, including through particularly Howard Springs, is a very significant one. And the decision to place a temporary pause, a temporary review on returning travellers from India has been to enable our systems to deal with that and then once we review that on May 15, we’ll make further decisions, said Ms Payne.
Ms Asthana says We have started an online petition to urge the Federal government to withdraw the arbitrary decision to impose penalties on Australians returning from India.
Minister Payne refused to concede that the governement is not confident of it’s hotel quarintine arrangements.
“I think that the hotel quarantine arrangements as the Prime Minister said the other day has been operating at around 99 per cent efficacy. It absolutely does not prove that we are not confident about the hotel quarantine arrangements, She replied.”
“Let me say, again, that the burden that such a high infection rate was placing on the states and territories’ medical systems and health system tolls address such a high positivity rate was one which had become difficult for them to deal with. So pausing the returns process allows the system to manage those infections. To reduce those numbers and then we can review the process again on May 15.”
Ms Payne specifically clarified that the federal government is not considering using the Christmas Island detention facility as a quarantine centre for returned travellers from India.