In the wake of the Covid crisis, Australia’s government limited international arrivals into the country to 4,000 travelers a week.
This has left Australians abroad, most of whom had left the country before the pandemic started, virtually stranded.
Australia set some of the most strict travel measures at the start of the pandemic in March. When the country closed its borders, thousands of Australians abroad rushed to return home, per the government’s advice.
According to data, during the first three months after the borders closed, 357,000 Australians returned from abroad.
Reportedly, they also brought with them the first wave of cases in the country, as many international arrivals tested positive while under mandatory hotel quarantine after landing in the country.
Now, half a year later, 25,000 Australians abroad are still struggling to get home. Yet some estimate that this number could be closer to 100,000, as the 25,000 figure represents only those who have formally registered their need to return to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Although there are still international flights running to and from Australia, the limit of 4,000 international arrivals a week has caused ticket prices to rise dramatically — on flights that are nearly empty.
These restrictions are set to expire on the 24th of October, but they may be renewed.
Government officials have expressed that these citizens who still find themselves stranded should have come back to Australia when the government advised Australians abroad to return home in March.
Yet many citizens have expressed to the international press that that message had been aimed toward travelers, not long-term residents of other countries. Many struggled with the choice of leaving their education, employment, and property behind to go to Australia, where they had no home or prospect of employment.
As time went on, many lost their jobs and are now struggling to stay abroad legally, as their visas are set to expire and they are unable to get back to Australia.
Couple, Bill and Cristal Tsouvalas spoke to the Advertiser about their experience trying to return to Australia from South Africa, where they were located before the pandemic.
They urgently need to bring their nine-month-old daughter to Australia to receive surgery for a heart defect.
In desperation at the lack of flights, the family bought business-class tickets that cost $23,000 AUD (€14,161), only to have the flight cancelled.
Greek-Australian Christos Lagoumitzis has been stuck in Greece since March, according to the Daily Telegraph. He had gone to Greece in January to take care of his elderly parents, and has been trying to fly back to Australia since the borders closed in March, but his flights are consistently rescheduled for later dates.
According to Australian press reports, officials are hoping to bring citizens who still find themselves trapped abroad sometime before Christmas.