Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison was accused of racism and having blood on his hands over a threat to jail Australians trying to escape Covid-wracked India Photo: AFP/File
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Australian PM retreats from threat to jail Australians trying to return from India

19 Comments

Australia's prime minister fended off accusations of racism and having blood on his hands Tuesday, as he retreated from a threat to jail Australians trying to escape COVID-wracked India.

Scott Morrison's government moved to ban travelers from India from entering Australia until May 15, threatening rule-breakers -- including Australian citizens -- with prison time.

Amid a widespread backlash, Morrison on Tuesday said it was "highly unlikely" that Australians who skirted a ban would be jailed.

"I think the likelihood of any of that occurring is pretty much zero," Morrison said in a breakfast-time media blitz on Tuesday.

Around 9,000 Australians are believed to be in India, where hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases are being detected every day and the death toll is soaring.

Among those trapped are some of Australia's most high profile sporting stars -- cricketers playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League.

Commentator and form test cricket star Michael Slater was among those who pilloried Morrison's decision as a "disgrace".

"Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this," he tweeted. "If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home."

Morrison said the idea he had blood on his hands was "absurd".

"There have been a lot of difficult decisions during COVID and people will criticize me and my government for it," he told Nine television. "I'm not going to fail Australia. I'm going to protect our borders at this time."

The decision came into force on Monday and was denounced by rights groups and some of Morrison's most prominent allies including Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt who said it "stinks of racism".

Australia has largely avoided the worst of the pandemic, through some of the strictest border controls in the world.

There is a blanket ban on travel to-and-from the country unless an exemption is secured.

Non-residents are mostly banned from entering and anyone who does come into the country must carry out a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine.

But that system has come under increasing strain as the virus has jumped from quarantine facilities and caused a series of outbreaks in the largely unvaccinated community.

The conservative prime minister faces reelection in the next 12 months, and had hoped Australia's relatively successful handling of the pandemic would propel him to victory.

But the India travel ban and a glacial vaccine rollout have prompted criticism.

Australia has administered 2.2 million vaccine doses out of a population of 25 million people, who each need two doses to be fully immunized.

© 2021 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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Not allowing one's country's to return is idiotic. Morrison is a monster.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Just goes to show Jp doesn't have a monopoly on inhumane governance

1 ( +6 / -5 )

"Commentator and form test cricket star Michael Slater was among those who pilloried Morrison's decision as a "disgrace".

"Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this," he tweeted. "If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home."

Michael Slater was always a bully on the cricket field so no sympathies from me there. Still remember his atrocious behavior in the 1st test at Mumbai in the historic 2001 test series when he claimed a catch off Rahul Dravid and abused both the umpire and Dravid when replays showed otherwise.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

But Australia did a good job in preventing the Virus.

2 new cases, lock down a complete city with millions of people...

Put Aussies returning from India in prison...

Very good job!

WTF!

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

This is a political move because the majority of Australians fully support it and this is what makes it so shocking, not that the PM would use it for political gain as who can blame a politician to take advantage of pubic sentiment.

Even the racist nature of this ,( it was never even suggested when the US or UK were in similar or worse positions) does not put a dent in the vast masses of flag waving Australians cheering this on.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Australians don't realise the bigger repercussions of this decision. Morrison is pretty much saying the government will gladly abandon any Australian citizen who is in trouble overseas without a second thought if it's too difficult for them to help them.

The fact that so many Australians are in support of this move proves we Aussies are getting what we deserve.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

It’s not about keeping people out. It’s about keeping that horrid virus out. All Australians have endured lockdowns with vigilance and have achieved an effective control over the virus with very low numbers of cases in an extremely multicultural country. Perhaps Morrison’s threat was out of line, but Australians have fought hard to control the virus with world-leading results. It took one of my friends a year to get out of India. She returned to Australia last month, just beating the travel ban. She had to pay for her own hotel quarantine at $2,500 (AUD). This is what has brought on Morrison’s comment. Those who dodge the quarantine will be jailed.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Is it true to say that many (or most) of these Australian citizens are of Indian origin and does that have anything to do with this situation? Not trolling but just seeking the opinion of others.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Your question is understood @Harry_Gatto 4:12p. Would prefer to learn more details about the the circumstances from our Aussie commenters.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Is it true to say that many (or most) of these Australian citizens are of Indian origin and does that have anything to do with this situation?"

India does not have dual citizenship, so anyone who has taken up Australian citizenship and is now stuck in India, even if he is of Indian origin will be denied vaccination among other things.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/may/03/my-australian-husband-is-stuck-in-india-all-i-want-is-to-know-he-can-come-home

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-56924188

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Michael Slater who pretty much has no employment in Australia went to India to commentate cricket in the midst of the pandemic to get a paycheck. He made his comments from a resort hotel in the Maldives where he is quarantining for 14 days before returning to Australia next week where he will quarantine for a further 14 days and then get back to his privileged lifestyle in Sydney.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

People against this policy are downvoted because they are a Australians who supports to the ban, which the majority of Australians also support, or because you are embarrassed for the world to know the majority of Australian fully support this policy! If living in Japan I wonder what they will think is one day in the future this policy is applied to Australians in Japan.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Government has the power of life and death should they choose to exercise that option. The pandemic is a crisis that has governments acting irrationally at times. The good news is that the PM has backed down from this threat. Now get your citizens home safely and move on.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The good news is that the PM has backed down from this threat

I noticed he was very careful about his choice of words about Australians in India being punished if they try to return home. He said it was unlikely that they would be fined or jailed, but didn't outright say that they won't.

And for those Australians supporting this move - better not see you begging the government for help when your drug dealing antics land you in trouble abroad.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Michael Slater who pretty much has no employment in Australia went to India to commentate cricket in the midst of the pandemic to get a paycheck. He made his comments from a resort hotel in the Maldives where he is quarantining for 14 days before returning to Australia

what is he doing in the Maldives?

He's become another super spreader

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"I'm not going to fail Australia. I'm going to protect our borders at this time."

Though unconfirmed, those close to Morrison allege he followed up this comment with, “Curse you, He-man!” and then impotently shook his blue-skinned fists at the sky.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's pretty telling that in the progressive mind the completely unsubstantiated claim of racism outweighs the actual threat to the lives of millions of Australians posed by the virus, to the point where they can actually claim with a straight face that the PM has 'blood on his hands' for attempting to enforce quarantines. A claim that literally rests on the fact that current 'country with a major outbreak' happens to be non-white. That's literally the sum total of evidence, yet it's apparently enough.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Illyas

This isn’t a case of quarantine breaking. It’s not like these people came home and then failed to quarantine for 2 weeks or something. They are being completely locked out of their own country for an indeterminate amount of time. The article says the restriction ends May 15th, but what it fails to mention is that that date is not a hard deadline and can be legally extended indefinitely. Whereas other countries worked to evacuate their citizens from Covid hotspots immediately so they wouldn’t get infected, Morrison seems to have taken the opposite approach, locking out citizens completely with zero recourse should health individuals become infected during their forced time in India and idk...hoping India will take care of them? Who knows? Certainly not Morrison. What’s insidious is how he keeps talking about ‘keeping Australians safe’ as if the people he wasn’t deliberately locking down in a viral incubator aren’t the exact Australians he claims to want to protect.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Michael Slater was always a bully on the cricket field so no sympathies from me there

There are 8000-9000 Australian citizens in India. Very few are highly paid sports stars. Most are doing business or working for some global firm. Companies such as ANZ Banking Group, Westpac Banking, Austral 3D Global and Linfox Logistics are examples of big Australian companies with operations, and in all likelihood Australian citizens working for them, in India.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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