Australia to resume India repatriation flights after ban called 'disgusting' and 'racist'

·2 min read
Passengers wearing facemasks arrive at Sydney International Airport off a Qatar Airways flight on May 1 - James D. Morgan /Getty Images AsiaPac 
Passengers wearing facemasks arrive at Sydney International Airport off a Qatar Airways flight on May 1 - James D. Morgan /Getty Images AsiaPac

Australia will resume repatriation flights from India on 15 May after the ban was slammed as "disgusting" and "racist".

The government halted flights from India on 27 April after raising concerns that the country’s much-maligned hotel quarantine system could be overwhelmed by positive cases among returnees.

It was originally planned to last at least until 15 May, with the possibility of an extension.

Health Minister Greg Hunt’s statement at the time highlighted severe penalties for anyone returning from India who failed to spend two weeks in a third country prior to arriving in Australia, including a A$66,000 fine or up to five years prison.

India is currently facing an enormous wave of Covid cases fuelled by an aggressive new variant.

But the move drew strong criticism as it emerged that 9,000 Australians had registered for assistance to return home from India, including at least 900 people categorised as facing medical or financial distress by Australia’s foreign affairs officials.

Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt described the ban as “mean” and “irrational”, saying it “stinks of racism”.

“I fear that more than 600,000 Australians of Indian ancestry will now conclude that they can never be real citizens of this country. That they are outsiders. Not 'real' Australians,” he said.

Former Australian test cricketer Michael Slater, who was stranded in India while working on an Indian Premier League commentary team, also slammed the decision.

“If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It's a disgrace… I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect. Blood on your hands PM.”

Mr Slater called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “take your private jet and come witness the dead bodies on the street”.

Mr Slater also called on the government to boost Australia's quarantine facilities.

“Michael Slater is saying what a lot of people are thinking… I think Mr Morrison should have created special quarantine facilities here. He's had 16 months,” opposition frontbencher and former Labor Party leader Bill Shorten told the Nine Network.

“I think it is disgusting that Australian citizens can't come home to secure facilities… I think it is a complete failure of leadership.”