— Travel n Tour

Government slammed for ‘outrageous’ and ‘un-Australian’ move criminalising travel from India

The federal government has been criticized for temporarily criminalizing Australians returning home from COVID-ravaged India. The Australian Human Rights Commission has called on the government to prove its decision to fine or jail Australians is “not discriminatory”.

It says it holds deep concerns about the “extraordinary” new restrictions.

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, has described the move as “outrageous”. Travelers from India have been blocked from entering Australia until at least 15 May, when the decision will be re-assessed.

Indirect routes via Doha, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore have also been closed off, as India’s daily tally of COVID-19 cases tops 400,000.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says anyone attempting to defy the rules will be fined up to $66,600, five years in prison, or both.


More than 9,000 Australians in India are registered as wanting to return, including 650 considered vulnerable.

“The need for such restrictions must be publicly justified,” the Human Rights Commission said on Saturday.

“The government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health.”

Human Rights Watch’s Australia director Elaine Pearson says Australians “have a right of return to their own country”.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian academic recently freed from two years in detention in Iran, called the move “immoral, unjustifiable, and completely un-Australian”.

“I know what it means to do time for absolutely no reason whatsoever,” she wrote on Twitter. “I also know what it means to be rescued from a COVID-riddled overseas hellhole and be brought back to Australia [into quarantine].”

Labor MP Jason Clare has backed the flight ban as the “right call” but questioned the decision to criminalize citizens for trying to return home.

The government’s decision was based on the number of positive cases from India detected in the country’s quarantine facilities, Mr. Hunt said. Over 150 overseas-acquired infections have been reported Australia-wide in the past week, many from India.

“The government does not make these decisions lightly,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Saturday defended the move, conceding it was “drastic” but would ultimately “keep Australians safe”. Foreign Minister Marise Payne also stands by the announcement, which she said was “entirely founded” on health advice. “We recognized the very difficult circumstances occurring in India right now … for so many families, and indeed here in Australia, for Indian Australians, who are so worried about their families overseas,” Senator Payne told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

More than 200,000 people have died, and India has been setting records daily with the tally of new cases. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it supported 372 consular clients in India on Saturday, three of which are COVID-19 related. SBS News has sought further information. Around 20,000 Australians registered with DFAT have returned from India since March last year. The government isendsoxygen supplies, ventilators, and personal protective equipment to India through DFAT. Additional reporting by AAP.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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