Indian-Australians cut off from loved ones by a flight ban with the subcontinent have told Daily Mail Australia they support the border closure to keep the country safe from Covid-19.
Direct commercial flights from India were banned by Scott Morrison last week as the nation of 1.4 billion battles a surge in illnesses and death, with 355,832 fresh cases on Monday alone and 20 million since the pandemic began.
The government also took the ‘extraordinary’ step of threatening anyone who gets around the ban with a fine of up to $66,000 and five years in jail under the Biosecurity Act.
Opponents have called the move ‘horrific and racist’ and accused the government of abandoning 9,000 Australian citizens and residents by suspending rescue flights until May 15.
Among those stranded in the Covid-ravaged nation are some of Australia’s best cricketers including Steve Smith, Dave Warner, Pat Cummins and Marcus Stoinis, who were playing in the lucrative IPL until the tournament was cancelled on Tuesday.
But many Indian-Australians are pleased with the uncompromising stance to keep the nation safe from the lethal virus, which has caused 3.2 million deaths and infected 153 million people around the world.
Migration consultant Alexandra Forwood (left), 35, and her partner Ashish Dube (right), 34, applauded the border closure
Commerce and law student Rishab Jain (left), from Ryde in north-west Sydney, said the ban was not racist but medically necessary. He is pictured with his mother Geetika and father Rajesh
Commerce and law student Rishab Jain, from Ryde in north-west Sydney, said the ban was not racist but medically necessary.
‘I believe the relative risk of allowing 9,000 people to enter the country from India is too high,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on the steps of the Murugan Hindu temple in Mays Hill, western Sydney.
‘It’s not about racism, it’s because India has the most cases in the world at the moment.
‘The situation warrants the measures that the government has implemented.’
IT consultant Sanadu Basu (left with her partner Abrah), 31, said she supported the ban even though her parents were in India
His 59-year-old father Rajesh, who migrated to Australia two decades ago and now runs a wholesale business, also supported the ban.
‘I think it’s a good move and it’s designed to keep everyone here safe,’ he said.
Migration consultant Alexandra Forwood, 35, and her partner Ashish Dube, 34, applauded the border closure.
‘I think it’s necessary because as a migration consultant I know of many people who got permanent residency but returned to India and are now trying to migrate back because we have such low levels of Covid,’ Ms Forwood said.
‘Many of them think ”oh sh*t it’s better to be in Australia” so they try to get on a flight over here.
‘I don’t have any sympathy. They shouldn’t have gone in the first place and they should stop blaming the government.’
Kamala Raj (centre) and Savithiri Doraiswamy (right) supported the ban, saying ‘we’re safe here so let’s keep it that way’
Mr Dube said that he supported a temporary ban but hoped he would eventually be able to visit his parents in India when it’s safe enough.
‘I’m in favour of a temporary ban if it’s to stop us having cases here. A relative of mine died of Covid aged just 20 – the situation is really bad there,’ he said.
‘But I do worry about people’s mental health if they can’t see their families.
‘There was a petition to allow parents to be considered close family members for the purposes of travel exemptions into Australia and I support that,’ he said.
Australia’s superstar cricketers face an uncertain future in India as even more were forced into isolation on Tuesday after a third IPL player tested positive for the virus.
The IPL promptly announced the immediate indefinite suspension of the big-money tournament featuring many of the world’s best players, acknowledging that if the seven-week competition were to continue it may put ‘lives at stake’.
Organisers released a statement saying the IPL would work with player’s home nations to get them home safely, but Australia has a total ban on flights from the nation and has even threatened citizens with five years in prison if they return.
Pat Cummins (pictured with his partner Becky Boston) is in isolation after two of his teammates in India tested positive to Covid-19
Pat Cummins is already in isolation after teammates tested positive to Covid-19 (pictured with IPL teammates)
Former test captain Steve Smith is among the Australian players stranded in India
IT consultant Sanadu Basu, 31, said she supported the ban even though her parents were in India.
After praying for them outside the temple she told Daily Mail Australia: ‘I’m in favour of the ban because it’s the right thing to do, especially because there are so many mutant strains of Covid in India at the moment.
‘The state and federal governments around the country are doing a really good job actually. When we lockdown we only have to do it for a few days.
‘My parents are in India and so I’m praying they will be OK,’ she said.
Her husband Abhra, an IT consultant for the NSW government, also backed the travel ban.
‘I’ve been in Australia for seven years and I appreciate the how the government has handled the pandemic.
‘They saw it as a challenge to the nation and they responded very well,’ he said.
Devender Rawat (pictured with partner Deepika), 38, supported the travel restrictions and dismissed any accusations of unfair treatment against India
Srini Anand, 39, was praying for his father and mother who live alone in India. He said he thought the threat of fines and jail time was excessive but a temporary pause on travel was reasonable
Worshipper, Shanti Suppiah, 59, said she feels safe in Australia because of the border ban
Devender Rawat, 38, was also at the temple to pray for family in India. He supported the travel restrictions and dismissed any accusations of unfair treatment against Indians.
‘I’m in favour of the ban – it’s not just against Indians, it’s to keep us safe,’ the IT worker said.
‘My father has Covid in India but it’s quite mild and he’s been vaccinated so touch wood he will be OK.
‘Unfortunately we can’t get to him and he’s on his own but we’re in contact with his doctor.’
Srini Anand, 39, was praying for his father and mother who live alone in India. He said he thought the threat of fines and jail time was excessive but a temporary pause on travel was reasonable.
Masters student Surendra Singh, 26, said the ban was hard but right for the nation
‘I do support a temporary pause on travel for people who are safely in Australia but I think the government should be more relaxed with exemptions,’ he said.
‘I became a citizen 15 years ago and gave up my Indian citizenship to be here. My kids are here with me and my family is safe but my parents are in India.
‘My father has cancer and my mother, who is diabetic and has a heart condition, is looking after him.
‘I applied for an exemption to go and visit them a few months ago but I was rejected,’ he said.
Another worshipper, Shanti Suppiah, 59, said she feels safe in Australia because of the border ban.
‘I feel safe and I’m pleased the government has made the move to shut the borders,’ she said.
Asked if the fines and jail threats were excessive, she said: ‘If they’re not supposed to come then they’re not supposed to come.’
Masters student Surendra Singh, 26, who arrived in Australia just before the pandemic to study supply chain logistics said the travel pause was the right move, despite being inconvenient for his fellow students.
‘For the country it’s right decision but for the people affected it’s not. I have friends in India who have paid more than $60,000 to study here but are forced to do online learning because they can’t enter.’
A crematorium for mass cremation in New Delhi, India on Saturday as the virus ravages the nation
Scott Morrison has said the travel ban was simply to protect Australians’ health and dismissed accusations of racism.
‘The same accusations were made against the government over a year ago when we closed the borders to mainland China,’ he told Sydney radio station 2GB on Monday.
‘There’s no politics or ideology in a pandemic… It’s got nothing to do with politics, this is a virus.’
Mr Morrison said the Biosecurity Act powers would be used sensibly and added: ‘We’ve done all the right things to keep Australia safe during this pandemic. This is another very difficult decision. I feel terribly for the Indian community.’
Independent MP Zali Steggall said the jail threat was ‘the first step to a totalitarian state’ and Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi said the measures were ‘absolutely horrific and racist’.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese called the decision ‘extraordinary’, adding: ‘The government’s got to justify how it is that the figures from India are similar to what they’ve been in the past from the UK and the US, but we haven’t seen these sort of measures.
‘Australia has obligations to our citizens, to people who are Australians, not just to abandon them overseas.’
The Australian Human Rights Commission said in a statement: ‘The Government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and are the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health.’
About 600,000 Australians have Indian ancestry, according to the 2016 census.
Australia last week banned direct commercial flights from India as the nation of 1.4billion battles a surge in illness and death with 401,993 coronavirus cases recorded on Sunday