The Australian government banned arrival of Australian residents and citizens who have been in India within 14 days of planned arrival. The ban came into effect on May 3. Those who disobey the ban will face fines or jail or both under Australia’s Biosecurity Act, 2015.
The stringent action was taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from India. This is the first time Australian government has made it a criminal offence for its citizens to return home. The Government will reconsider the ban after 15 May 2021.
“On advice from the Chief Medical Officer, India has been determined to be a high-risk country for the purposes of travel arrangements,” read the statement released by Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Office earlier on 27 April 2021.
Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement that the flouting the ban may result in civil penalties and up to five years imprisonment.
“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,” said the statement released by the Department of Health.
“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,” said Mr Hunt.
The travel ban has created ripples in the international community and many have criticised this decision. Members of Australian-Indian community and several leaders in Australia including Federal Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi expressed their concerns on Twitter over the recent move by Australian government.
Human Rights Watch’s Australia director, Elaine Pearson said on Twitter, “This is an outrageous response. Australians have a right of return to their own country.”
However, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended this decision to ban and impose a jail term and a penalty for Australians trying to return from India.
He said, “It has been put in place to ensure that we do not get a third wave here in Australia and that our quarantine system can remain strong.”