A group of 200 skilled visa holders and international students from India have written a letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison appealing to him to relax border restrictions for temporary visa holders stuck offshore.
Hundreds of work visa holders, international students and bridging visa holders who were on a visit to India when the border closed are now anxious to return to their work and lives in Australia.
Adversity has now forced them into a group and together they have appealed to the Prime Minister requesting him to “alter” the current border restrictions imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus.
- Temporary visa holders in India are anxious to return to Australia
- 200 work visa holders and international students have written a letter to the prime minister
- "No plans to change the restrictions in place," says the Prime Minister
In a letter drafted on behalf of the Indian-Australian Strategic Alliance, the group states that the offshore temporary visa holders have been provided with “limited” information of their return to the country.
The letter also outlines the concerns of those currently stranded offshore, including their financial stress, business and study commitments and impending court hearings.
Sydney-based community representative Dr Jagvinder Singh Virk who is representing the group said he was inundated by phone calls from temporary visa holders when they heard that Australians stuck in India were being ferried back to the country.
“I know of at least 700 temporary visa holders stranded in various parts of India who are waiting for the first opportunity to make it to Australia. Therefore, we hired Madison Marcus Law Firm to help us draft a letter listing all their concerns and sent to the Prime Minister and all other relevant authorities,” said Mr Virk.
He added that the visa holders have even agreed to privately charter their return flight and to fund their 14-day hotel quarantine mandated by the Australian government.
“They are ready to pay for everything including their flights and the two-week hotel stay upon their return. All they want is the government’s permission to go ahead,” said Mr Virk.
As per the current immigration policies, only Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members can enter the country.
Exemptions are also being granted to temporary visa holders where it is essential, in the national interest or on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
However, for all others, the Australian borders are temporarily closed, forcing them to live in “uncertainty, stress and financial hardship.”
One of those caught in the chaos of restrictions is Deepak Sharma, a work visa holder based in Melbourne who has lived in Australia for the past 11 years.
Speaking to SBS Punjabi from the northern Indian state of Punjab, the restaurant owner said he has already incurred a loss of $10,000 because of his inability to tend to his business while stuck in India.
“I had come to India for a flying visit, little did I know that I would be struggling to return to my life and work in just a matter of few days,” said Mr Sharma.
He added that he is in a group of approximately 700 other Indian visa holders who are “desperate” to return and are waiting for the Australian government to lift the restrictions.
“The most vulnerable are those who were travelling on Bridging B visas, which have already expired or are going to expire in the next few days.
“If the government is willing to lift the restrictions soon, at least give us some sort of assurance that we’d be given some consideration upon or time to extend our visas whenever they decide to open the borders,” he added.
Mr Sharma said they were now eagerly awaiting a response from the Prime Minister’s office.
When contacted, the Prime Minister’s office redirected us to Mr Morrison’s previous statement made during a press conference on April 21 where he stated that the government had no plans to change any of the travel restrictions currently in place with both outbound and inbound travel.
“We have just rolled over again the travel restrictions that we currently have in place with both outbound and inbound and we have no plans to change any of those. There are some exemptions that sit around diplomatic travel and a few other very limited cases and they will remain,” the prime minister had said.
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