SYDNEY, Australia — Before the coronavirus pandemic surged, Drisya Dilin dropped her daughter off with her parents in India, expecting to bring her to Australia a month later. That was more than a year ago.
Now, any attempt to get the 5-year-old to Australia, where she is a permanent resident, brings a threat of jail time or large fines.
She’s one of about 8,000 Australians affected by an unprecedented travel ban that began on Monday, prompted by India’s record-breaking Covid outbreak. It is believed to be the first time that Australia has made it a criminal offense for its own citizens and permanent residents to enter the country.
“I never expected this to happen,” said Ms. Dilin, a hospital administrator who has tried several times to repatriate her daughter to Australia, including on a charter flight this month that was canceled.
a strong preference for hard borders, has pushed isolation to a new extreme. No other democratic nation has issued a similar ban on all arrivals. Britain, Germany and the United States, for example, have restricted travel from India, but have exempted citizens and permanent residents, many of whom are rushing home.
Australia’s decision — announced quietly late Friday night by officials who said it was necessary to keep the country safe — has built into a medical and moral crisis.
Indian-Australians are outraged. Human rights groups have condemned the move as unnecessarily harsh and a violation of citizenship principles. Other critics have suggested that the policy was motivated by racism or, at the very least, a cultural double standard.
medical oxygen; and where crematories are burning day and night amid a deluge of bodies.
Australian officials said the new restrictions — with penalties of up to five years in prison and nearly 60,000 Australian dollars ($46,300) in fines under Australia’s Biosecurity Act — would keep its hotel quarantine system from being overwhelmed.
“Fifty-seven percent of the positive cases in quarantine had been arrivals from India,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Sunday. “It was placing a very, very significant burden on health and medical services in states and territories.”
But for Australians in India, the policy amounts to a stunning lack of concern.
“I thought our passports would look after us,” said Emily McBurnie, an Australian wellness coach who has been stranded in New Delhi since March 2020 and has been ill with Covid-19 for more than a month. She said that the Australian government owed more to its citizens, and added that if her health deteriorated, she feared she would not have access to oxygen or an intensive care bed.