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Labor MP criticises the move to slash international arrivals by half

Source: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito

A federal Labor MP has criticised the move to cut the number of international flights coming to Australia, saying the move without any forewarning has made it more difficult for Australians stranded in India to return home.


Federal Labor MP Rob Mitchell, who represents the Victorian electorate of McEwen has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to highlight the plight of Australians stranded in India.

He told SBS Hindi: "The concerns that have been raised through many members of our community; members from the subcontinent, in particular, are that many Indian Australians have been stuck overseas due to a whole range of issues that is beyond their control."


Highlights:

  • Many Australians stuck in India are writing to their local MPs for help
  • Labor MP Rob Mitchell has written to Prime Minister in support of Australians stranded in India
  • The Australian Government has cut down the number of people allowed back in Australia

 

Australians travelling home
Australian passengers outside entry gate 4 at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.
Supplied

Mr Mitchell criticised the government for cutting the number of flights coming to Australia. 

"Firstly we've had countries such as India who put strict regulations in place about travelling movement. This has made it very hard for people to come home but also through the appalling actions of the federal government to suddenly and without any explanation cut the amount of flights for people to get home and left many Indian Australian stranded anywhere with no way of returning home for safety," said Mr Mitchell.

Labor member for McEwen Rob Mitchell in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Labor member for McEwen Rob Mitchell in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.
AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Though more than 8,000 people have so far returned from India in the recent weeks through 39 flights, thousands more are still stuck there as there are not enough flights to bring them back.

Bhagath Kishore is an Australian permanent resident who has been stuck in India since March. He says securing a plane ticket under the current circumstances, is very difficult.

"The flights get booked out in minutes after announcements. People have been trying for months to book tickets."

He is worried that the move to cut the number of flights will make their return to Australia even more difficult.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison agrees. 

“It will be more difficult because there will be a reduction in the available capacity for people coming back to Australia,” he said following national cabinet on Friday.

With the decision coming into effect on Monday, 4,000 fewer passengers will return to Australia each week. 

States and territories had called for the reduction to ease pressure on hotel quarantine following the coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne.

“The decision that we took to reduce the number of returned travellers to Australia was to ensure we could put our focus on the resources needed to do the testing and tracing,” Mr Morrison said.

The Australian High Commissioner in India, Barry O'Farrell says the move is "extremely upsetting" for those who have been trying for months to return to Australia. 

"With the recent decisions by Australian federal, state & territory govts. to reduce flights into Australia, we have continued our constant contact with authorities in Australia about flight options from India," Mr O'Ferrell tweeted.

"We know it has been frustrating and disappointing for those who have missed out on tickets and the recent news from Australia on additional restrictions on international passenger arrivals will be extremely upsetting."

State governments have also started charging returning passengers for their mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine. 

Rob Mitchell, MP says he appreciates the federal government's efforts to limit the chances of infection coming to Australia but doesn't support the decision to cut the number of flights.

"When the government cuts flights and does not give people any support or any forewarning, what has happened, many people are left stranded. So we've been saying this is unfair, this is unreasonable, and it's not in Australian spirit if this happens," said Mr Mitchell.

Residents in metropolitan Melbourne are subject to stay-at-home orders and can only leave home for essential work, study, exercise or care responsibilities. People are also advised to wear masks in public.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Residents in Melbourne public housing towers who need access to support and assistance should call the Housing Call Centre on 1800 961 054. If you need a translator, first call 131 450. Both services are 24/7. More information can be found here.

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