Calls to not single out Indian-Australians

Asian Australian Alliance joins parliamentary crossbenchers, Sikh Council, Multicultural Communities Council, Chinese Community Council and Human Rights Commission in calling for Australian Government to withdraw its decision on penalising Australians defying the travel ban to come home from India

5 May 2021 | Staff Writers (Image: Jyotirmoy Gupta/APAC News)

The Asian Australian Alliance (AAA) condemns the extraordinary and unprecedented harsh penalties imposed on Australians returning from India. This is discriminatory when no such penalties were imposed on people returning from other nations even at the height of the pandemic in those countries.

To arbitrarily criminalise the return of a person to their own home and families is also a blatant disregard of human rights. Any curtailment of human rights needs to be proportionate and necessary. It must also satisfy section 477 of the Biosecurity Act under which the ban has been enacted. The section states that the measure has to be ‘appropriate’ and ‘no more restrictive or instructive than is required in the circumstances’. The current ban is neither appropriate nor required in the circumstances. 

The AAA has therefore started a petition that demands the Australian Government immediately withdraw its decision to impose fines up to $66,000 or five years of imprisonment for anyone defying the travel ban preventing Australians returning home from India with immediate effect. 

Asian Australian alliance launches petition

You can access our petition by clicking here, or use this link:

Molina Asthana, the Co-founder and Lead Victorian Convenor for AAA says: “The unjustified and harsh penalties imposed on the return of Australians from India is an unprecedented Act to target particular communities and is racial in nature. No such ban, let alone penalties were imposed on returning Australians from any other country. This is nothing new, systemic racism has been the fabric of Australia and this is just another form of that racism.”

Erin Wen Ai Chew, the Co-founder and National Convener for AAA expresses her frustration at the racially fuelled actions of the Australian Government: ” Back in early 2020, Australians in China who returned were sent to the Christmas Island Detention Centre for “quarantine”, and those who had legitimate visas were banned from entering. Now, Australians in India will be penalised if they come home. However, the Americans and those from the UK were allowed to enter Australia with ease. The racial bias in this situation is real and it is done in plain sight – how will the country heal when the Government is doing racially motivated actions like this?”

Joint Statement: National Sikh Council Of Australia, Multicultural Communities Council Of NSW and Chinese Community Council Of Australia

Following a travel ban imposed by the Australian government, the SMH (4 May 2021) reported the response from the Indian community ” ‘Racist’ India travel ban has MPs wavering and community fuming.”

The Indian Australian community is furious and accuse the federal government of imposing racists jail terms on Australians returning from India.

Dr Jagvinder Singh Virk, Chair of the Australia India Strategic Alliance and a long term Libera Party member said that community members felt like second-class citizens with the White Australia policy running under the radar decades after it ended.

Today, 5 May 2021 in the SMH, Dr Virk said that the India Australian community wants a concrete federal government plan to manage the repatriation of thousands of Australians and stand ready to assist.

We strongly supports the statement and proposal by Dr Virk.

Although Dr Paul Kelly’s advice to the PM is medically sound but adopting it without consideration of other factors can lead to a strong allegation of racism by the present government.

The crisis in India is a good reason for the Government to act now to protect all Australians by expediting their return. The Government should be taking additional measures to secure the return of Australians from overseas, not abandoning them.

Positive and compassionate action by the Federal Government can avoid the perception of racism.

Joint Statement: Mr Ajmer Singh Gill, President, Sikh Council of Australia Inc. & Dr Anthony Pun, OAM, Chair, Multicultural Communities Council of NSW Inc. and Mr Kingsley Liu, President, Chinese Community Council of Australia Inc.

Australian Human Rights Commission Statement on Travel Bans

The travel ban on Australian citizens returning from India, accompanied by criminal sanctions under the Biosecurity Act, raises serious human rights concerns.

The Commission supports the continuation of aid to the Indian Government as it copes with the current COVID-19 crisis, but the Commission holds deep concerns about these extraordinary new restrictions on Australians returning to Australia from India.

The need for such restrictions must be publicly justified. The Government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health.

The Commission urges Parliament’s Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 to review these new restrictions immediately.

Eight members of Federal Parliament Crossbench call on PM to review Biosecurity Act 

In the joint letter, the eight MPs and Senators have made three distinct calls to the Government:

  1. Revoke the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements—High Risk Country Travel Pause) Determination 2021 dated 30 April 2021.
  2. Urgently repatriate Australians currently in India, starting with those most vulnerable to COVID-19
  3. Establish a dedicated surge capacity quarantine facility

The members, Zali Steggall MP, Greens Leader Adam Bandt MP, Helen Haines MP, Andrew Wilkie MP, Rebekha Sharkie MP, Bob Katter MP, Senator Rex Patrick and Senator Stirling Griff have co-signed the letter.

Zali Steggall MP, Independent for Warringah:

“Australians in all regions are dismayed at the ad-hoc nature of the Government’s response to COVID-19. We crossbench members are calling for a clear, sensible and compassionate response from the Government to the current crisis in India. Leadership is tested in difficult times and it is wrong that the Prime Minister’s response is to abandon Australians overseas. We stand by each other in a time of need.”

Adam Bandt MP, Greens Leader:

“The ban is racist, it’s possibly illegal, it’s not based on health advice and it must be rescinded. The Greens will move in the Senate next week to overturn the ban and we believe it will have widespread support amongst Senators.”

Helen Haines MP, Independent for Indi:

“The government has had well over a year to get this right. What we need are impenetrable, fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities that can manage surge capacity for situations like this and pose zero risk to our COVID-safe community. Treating Australians seeking safe passage home as criminals is not the answer.”

Senator Rex Patrick, Senator for South Australia:

“It is the role of the Australian Government to help Australians when they are in difficulty overseas, not to criminalise them for coming home. This determination by the Government is entirely inappropriate and likely unconstitutional and it’s been made in response to their lack in relation to quarantine.”

Bob Katter MP, Independent for Kennedy:

“We all like to sing the song ‘I still call Australia Home’ but that doesn’t apply the Australians in India??? Fair bloody go, they deserve to be able to return home with proper testing and quarantine.”