Repatriation flights welcome, but quarantine system still seriously lacking

Responding to the announcement today that repatriation flights would begin from India to Australia on May 15, Amnesty International Campaigner Joel MacKay said:

“We welcome the fact that the totally unconscionable flight ban from India will be lifted, however, we still have concerns about what is being proposed and how that affects the human rights of Australians trapped in India.

“Under the plan announced today, an Australian must test negative to return home. Considering India’s faltering health system is failing to keep up with the surging cases, this Australian government decision will likely see sick Australians left languishing, unable to access healthcare, along with so many millions of Indians.

“This decision does raise the question, what’s the point of a quarantine system if it can’t house people who are unwell?

“Australians should be brought home where they can safely access the care they need.

“The fact that only three repatriation flights are scheduled, and commercial flights may still be on hold, emphasises the urgent need to drastically expand the current national quarantine capabilities. New facilities need to be built and more support given to the states so hotel quarantine can cater for more returning Aussies.

“If the government is only going to schedule three repatriation flights every two weeks from India, it would take around three months to get all of the stranded Aussies home — to leave these people in a worsening COVID-19 crisis is a complete failure of the government’s responsibility to protect the rights and safety of its citizens.”