Campaigners trying to help tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas say more needs to be done to get them home, despite millions being promised in the Federal Budget for repatriation flights.
Campaigners trying to help tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas want more to be done to get them home, saying the millions promised in the Federal Budget for repatriation flights isn't enough.
A total of $180m has been earmarked for special government-facilitated flights to help the 34,500 people who have told the government they want to get back.
Travellers usually have to pay for their ticket plus $3000 quarantine.
The SMH reports the budget money will help fund 100 flights for some 17,000 Aussies - about half the number currently registered - to get home from around the world.
It will occur over the next year.
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Campaigners say 60 flights would be needed to get people back from India alone, where there are 9500 stranded.
Then they all need to go into quarantine.
Howard Springs in Darwin, where most repatriation flights go, is to be expanded from 800 people to 2000.
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But it still wouldn't be enough to handle the numbers.
Joh Gwynn, who helps run Facebook group Australians Stuck around the World, said the plan is a far cry from what is needed.
"It's good that there's something allocated. However, it just doesn't seem to be anything near enough," she told 9News.com.au.
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"This plan indicates that we're still going to have stranded Aussies in 12 months time. I don't know how that's acceptable.
"I was calculating, 150 passengers a flight, just for India we would need more than 60 flights."
Ms Gywnn believes, despite Scott Morrison last week announcing the resumption of repatriation flights from India, only one has been confirmed so far.
This is based on the confirmations from the 11,500 members of her Facebook group who have been offered or are waiting for $1500 tickets from the government.
The repatriation flight plan comes amid the continuation of the commercial flight caps, which allow just a few thousand people into Australia each week, making seats hard to get and expensive.
Some nations, such as India, have never resumed direct flights to Australia since the pandemic began.
But travel can be possible via another country, once the travel ban lifts.
All those passengers go into hotel quarantine in capital cities, with the government so far ruling out building more Howard Springs-type facilities.
It has also been indicated international borders are likely to be closed until at least the middle of next year.
Dutch Australian man Pieter Den Heten spent about six months trying to get home from Europe last year, and now helps run campaign group, Stranded Aussies Action Network.
He accused the government of having "no plan", and wants to know just how the new flights will be allocated.
The 900 people classed as 'vulnerable' in India are going to be the first to be offered flights home from there, the government has indicated.
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Mr Den Heten said some form of monitored home quarantine is needed - as well as a ramping up of the vaccination rollout.
The number of Australians who have told DFAT they want to come back has fluctuated since last year.
Because while there is a travel ban, people can leave with permission, including for compassionate reasons (such as if a family member is sick overseas or if they want to leave for more than three months).
While Aussies still overseas have been accused of not coming home when they were told to, for many it was impossible due to lockdowns, cancelled flights, the expense, and the fact that they couldn't just suddenly leave their lives overseas.
Last March, the government also told people living overseas to stay put if they were safe and could support themselves.
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9News.com.au has asked DFAT for more details about the flights, including how they will be allocated.
"Since the start of the pandemic, the Government has helped over 45,400 Australians return on over 500 flights, including over 18,600 people on 126-government facilitated flights, and provided emergency assistance to the most vulnerable Australians overseas," DFAT said in a statement.
"The government has committed $176.3m to continue facilitated flights for Australians and extending assistance to those most in need.
"It will also enable a more responsive, effective and modern consular service to those most in need."
READ MORE: Sydney man in India desperate to get home to pregnant wife
Contact journalist Sarah Swain: Sswain@nine.com.au
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/federal-budget-2021-australia-travel-ban-repatriation-flights-stranded/c219920a-cdfc-4d96-8c19-5be2f0a57665