Indian business and community leaders call on the government to reverse its drastic ban on arrivals from India, ahead of an urgent meeting with the immigration minister

Credit: Steve Christo

  • Indian Australian business groups and other community leaders have spoken out in opposition to the Australian government’s ban on arrivals from India.
  • The public comments come in advance of a meeting with Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke on Wednesday.
  • The ban is currently blocking 9,000 Australian citizens, including 650 considered vulnerable, from re-entering Australia.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Members of the Indian Australian business and wider community have rebuked the government’s ban on arrivals into the country by anyone who was in India within 14 days of their departure, ahead of an urgent meeting with the immigration minister today.


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While on Monday Prime Minister Scott Morrison softened the government’s hardline stance, saying the likelihood of returning citizens being charged up to $66,000 and five years’ jail if they entered the country was “pretty much zero,” business leader with ties to the subcontinent have said the drastic measures were likely to hurt Australian-Indian community and bilateral business and trade.

Late on Friday the Federal Government announced it would utilise “emergency determination” powers enshrined in the Biosecurity Act, which enable the government to enforce significant prison sentences and fines for anyone who breaches the travel ban.

The ban will run until May 15 at the earliest.

Members of the Indian community on Wednesday will meet for urgent talks with immigration minister Alex Hawke in response to increasing pressure locally for the government to urgently evacuate vulnerable Australians amid the country’s deteriorating pandemic crisis.

Australia India Business Council chairman Jim Varghese told the Australian Financial Review that the widely-condemned decision was likely to have widespread and lasting effects.

Varghese urged the government to take a more pragmatic approach that balanced health and economic concerns and the rights of Australians in India.

“Australian Indians are educated, professional and contribute immensely to the Australian economy,” he said.

Varghese said it would be “naive” to think the statements made by the Australian government around fines and jail terms for Australian citizens in India would not impact the relationship.

“I think that it is important that we, as a nation, work closely to actually build on the important work that was done by Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi on the virtual summit they held last year,” he said.

Omar Khorshid, president of the Australian Medical Association told the Australian Financial Review he believed the penalties should be reversed immediately, adding that in his opinion as a medical professional the decision by the Australian government was misguided.

“Australia should in fact be aiding India by bringing Australians home in order to avoid further burden on their collapsing health system,” Khorsid said.

Amar Singh, the founder of Sikh charity Turbans 4 Australia, told Guardian Australia he would be calling for urgent government action when attending the meeting to evacuate Australians, particularly the 650 considered vulnerable.

“They have to do something urgent. People will die. There is no other way. If you are in India now and have to be taken to hospital, there is no oxygen, there are no beds,” Singh told Guardian Australia.

“And who is going to pay that price? Are we going to have Australians die on the side of the road and not do anything about it?”

The ban is currently blocking 9,000 people from re-entering Australia.

Since the order came into effect on Monday, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has accused Morrison of “an extraordinary abrogation” of the government’s responsibilities to look after Australia citizens.

A group of eight crossbench MPs in an open letter on Tuesday called on the Prime Minister to urgently review the travel ban and establish a dedicated surge quarantine facility to bring home stranded Australians.

The Morrison government has said all Australians who are repatriated need to first test negative to two tests in order to reenter the country.

On Monday the immigration minister said travellers will “need two separate negative tests to get on a plane” as the government seeks to control the numbers of returned travellers test positive to COVID-19 at quarantine centres, including one at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.

It reported that on one of the last flights to Australia from India before the ban was put in place, one in eight travellers tested positive.

The government has also said it is finalising arrangements with Qantas to be able to put the testing regime in place, however Guardian Australia reported it is understood to be less confident in the ability of Air India to do the same.

It has said it is preparing to resume flights from India when the midnight biosecurity rules put in place by the health minister Greg Hunt expires on May 15, though there have been calls to begin repatriation flights earlier.

The meeting between Indian leaders and Hawke comes ahead of the government’s national security committee of cabinet meeting on Thursday to review the ban.

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