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'That's just further punishment,' many Australians stuck overseas react strongly to hardship loans

Source: Supplied by Selbin Sebastian

The Federal government's plan to provide loans for the Australians stuck overseas due to pandemic have not gone well with many.

"We need flights and not a loan," said Selbin Sebastian, who is stuck in Kerala with his daughters while his wife is here in Australia.


Highlights:

  • The Federal government will provide loans for the Australians stuck overseas due to pandemic.
  • One-off loans which will be available to cover emergency living costs until a person is able to return.
  • Only Australian citizens and their immediate family members will be eligible.

"People like me are affected mentally more than anything. Separated with loved ones for a long time… it's frustrating, especially for kids (living) without mums."

"Who wants a loan?? That's just further punishment," says Dave James who is stuck in India.

On Wednesday, Minister for foreign affairs Marise Payne told the parliament that government would provide hardship loans to vulnerable Australians stuck abroad.

Senator Payne said, "Today the government is indicated that we will provide further support through an expanded hardship programme which will build on our existing traveller emergency loans programme."

"These are one-off loans which will be available to cover emergency living costs until a person is able to return. Loans will also be available to help with the cost of airline tickets to return to Australia."

But those stuck overseas reacted sharply to the scheme, open only to Australian citizens and their immediate family members.

"I don't need or want a loan. I want to be free to go home. This loan resolves nothing. The only way to help is for the government scrap the caps," said a twitter use responding to Ms Payne's tweet.

"Remove the cap, so airlines stop cancelling our flights and causing our financial difficulties in trying to get immediate refunds," said another twitter use Jo Ayers.

"The big problem at the moment is mental health issues rather than financial issues. I am sure this might help few Australians though." Mr Sudheer Dharamkar, an Australian citizen told SBS Hindi.

The financial assistance is available upon meeting strict eligibility criteria such as the applicants should "have made all reasonable efforts to seek financial assistance through other means."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told SBS Hindi in an emailed response, "The emergency loans are only available as a last resort. Applicants will have to meet strict eligibility criteria and must be intending to return to Australia as soon as a flight is available."

"The criteria is such that more than half Australians will find themselves ineligible," Ganesh Bhanushali posted on Facebook.

"Why can't they use these funds to procure more quarantine facilities! Providing loans to stay where you are and instead not planning on how to get them back is beyond my imagination!" posted another Facebook use Ashwini Kumar.

Many people stuck overseas are demanding the lifting of caps on the number of international arrivals into Australia.

Many of those stranded – 7500 – are stuck in India, while significant numbers are also stranded in the Philippines, South Africa and Vietnam.

Coronavirus alert signage at New Delhi International airport in view of the Coronavirus outbreak.
COVID-19 alert signage at New Delhi International airport in view of the Coronavirus outbreak.
AAP

In July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reduced the number of overseas arrivals from 6500 to 4000 per week following a second wave of COVID-19 infections in Victoria and amid concerns raised by other states about executing the hotel quarantine program.

Currently, overseas arrivals in Sydney are capped at 350 passengers per day. Arrivals in Perth are capped at 525 per week, Brisbane and Adelaide are both capped at 500 per week, while Hobart and Melbourne are not accepting international arrivals at all.

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