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Australians stuck in India seek financial aid as many lose jobs and run out of savings

Australians stuck in India due to lack of flights seek financial support from the government. Source: Supplied

Australian citizens and permanent residents who remain stranded in India due to multiple flight postponements are now demanding financial support to make ends meet until they are able to return to Australia.

Melbourne man Lakhpreet Singh had travelled to India along with his wife and two children in February where they remain stranded four months later.  

Unable to book tickets on the limited flights available, the 38-year-old who works as an operator at a bank’s security centre said he is struggling to keep up with his mortgage payments back in Australia while also paying for his family’s prolonged stay in India.

“On one hand I have exhausted my annual leave, which means I am living on my savings and to add to our woes, we stopped receiving our fortnightly family support income because we have been overseas for more than six weeks,” he said.


Highlights:

  • Australians stranded in India demand financial support as many lose jobs 
  • Families say the government must extend COVID grants and wage subsidies to Australians stuck overseas
  • Tickets for five out of six flights from India were cancelled due to capping on international arrivals

'We need financial support'

Australians in India
Lakhpreet Singh with his family.
Supplied

Now "frustrated” with the lack of flights and the government’s decision to charge travellers for hotel quarantine, Mr Singh has joined the growing cohort of Australians calling on the federal government for "special financial aid” to its citizens and residents stranded abroad.

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“The government must start thinking about Australians abroad. They must allow people like us who are stranded offshore due to no fault of their own to access COVID grants so we do not deplete our savings and can survive here till the time we return,” he said.

Australians travelling home
Rajveer Kaur with her son (L) and snapshot of her rejection for JobSeeker claim (R).
Supplied

Melbourne-based support worker Rajveer Kaur who has also been stuck with her family in Rajasthan in north India said she has made multiple claims for support payment outlining her family’s financial circumstances, only to be rejected each time.

“I am also studying to become a registered nurse, so I tried applying for crisis support payment available for residents who are studying to supplement their income but they said I wasn’t eligible. Later I applied for JobSeeker payment but was again rejected because they said you need to be onshore to lodge your claim,” said Ms Kaur.

'Flights, funds and mental health support'

Deb
Eysha Tellis and Deborah Tellis

Australian expat Deborah Tellis who has been living in Bengaluru in south India along with her 16-year-old daughter for the past five years has been trying to return home in NSW ever since her long-term teaching contract came to an end in the month of May.

The mother-daughter duo was set to fly out on a charter flight from Mumbai last month. But Ms Tellis said her daughter returned a “false positive” for COVID-19 just hours before boarding, forcing them to stay back in India.

“Since then I have tried to get on Air India very unsuccessfully and every time that I get on to the app it says tickets have been sold out,” she said.

The 55-year-old primary school teacher who has become an advocator for hundreds of Australians trapped in various parts of India said the Australian Government needs to step up for its residents before the pandemic further escalates in India.

“Many people have lost their jobs back at home but still have to maintain their loans, mortgages and keep running their house at home and still managing to live here so there’s a financial burden on both sides.

"We need the government to provide funding to these people in crisis, send at least 10 to 15 flights and some emotional counselling support for families facing anxiety,” said Ms Tellis.

Can you access JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments from outside Australia?

The government has rolled out a raft of stimulus measures like the JobKeeper and JobSeeker wage subsidies to assist Australian workers in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Melbourne-based tax accountant Harshad Kumar Patel said eligible Australians can get payments under the JobKeeper scheme from outside the country provided both the employer and the employee fulfil the criteria.

“If you are outside the country, you will be eligible if you are a resident of Australia for tax purposes and if you have been stood down from work, or if your former employer re-employs you. But if you have ceased employment, and are not rehired, you will not be eligible for the payment,” he told SBS Punjabi.

But he added that lines are blurred when it comes to the JobSeeker grants.

“Services Australia which administers JobSeeker payments has outlined that those eligible can only receive the payment under the scheme while remaining outside Australia for up to six weeks provided they have left the country temporarily for one of the approved reasons, which means very few people will be able to access these payments while overseas because the window of eligibility is extremely narrow.”

Click here to check the approved reasons for payment overseas.

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 

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