The Morrison government has issued an order saying anyone who tries to enter Australia from India will be fined and/or jailed for up to 5 years.
This is happening first time in the history of Australia that it has made it a criminal offense to come back home for Australian citizens. The government claims this action is based on medical advice, however, a number of commentators say this due to the “fear factor” that India’s COVID-19 crisis is getting worse day by day.
The statement by Health Minister Greg Hunt says, “The risk assessment that informed the decision was based on the proportion of overseas travellers in quarantine in Australia who have acquired a COVID-19 infection in India.”
“Failure to comply with an emergency determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015 may incur a civil penalty of 300 penalty units, five years’ imprisonment, or both.“
“The temporary pause will be reconsidered on 15 May by the Government following advice from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). The CMO will consider the epidemiology in India and likely impacts on Australia’s quarantine capacity, and provide a further expert assessment of the public health risk to Australia to inform a proportionate response,” explains the statement.
Mr. Hunt further said, “The Government does not make these decisions lightly. However, it is critical the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine systems is protected and the number of COVID-19 cases in quarantine facilities is reduced to a manageable level.”
Australian government’s travel ban will come into effect at 12.01am on Monday, 3 May 2021.
There are at least 9,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents stuck in India.
India has been reporting more than 300,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day for the past week. The total number of cases in India is now close to 19 million and more than 200,000 people have died.
The government statement says, “Our hearts go out to the people of India – and our Indian-Australian community. The friends and family of those in Australia are at extreme risk. Tragically, many are contracting COVID-19 and many, sadly, are dying every day.”
Member of Indian Parliament and Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi has tweeted to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, PMO India, and Scott Morrison to urgently look into this matter.
Constitutional law expert George Williams told SMH that the move was “very likely to be constitutional”.
“The only impediment would be if the High Court discovered some form of constitutional protection for returning citizens, but that would be a long shot.”
In an exclusive interview to the Australia Today, Labor leader Bill Shorten said:
“We should treat people the same whatever country they come from.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that such measures and restrictions are to deter people from exploiting the system.
Recently, Australian cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson took advantage of a loophole and came back to Australia via commercial flights from a non-restricted country.
The government has also said that they would explore all options of bringing back stranded citizens in India and other countries, on which it has imposed a travel ban.