Australian government rejects accusations of racism over travel ban

The accusations follow a ban on all travellers, including Australia’s own citizens, from entering the country from India.

Aerial view over the wing of an aeroplane.
Australian officials announced on Saturday that offending travellers from India would face five years in jail or a fine of A$66,000. Picture: Joshua_Willson from Pixabay

CAPE TOWN, May 4 (ANA) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of racism and having “blood on his hands” following a ban on all travellers, including its own citizens, from entering the country from India.

According to Al Jazeera, Australian officials made the announcement at the weekend due to the devastating Covid-19 second wave in India, and warned that offenders would face five years in jail or a fine of A$66,000.

“I don’t think it would be fair to suggest these penalties in their most extreme forms are likely to be placed anywhere, but this is a way to ensure we can prevent the virus coming back,” Morrison said during an interview with local broadcaster Channel Nine on Tuesday.

He added that the rules were needed to ensure the country’s quarantine systems were not put under pressure.

The BBC reported that an estimated 9,000 Australians are believed to be in India, and that the ban marks the first time that Australians would be criminalised for returning to their home country.

“The same accusations were made against the government over a year ago when we closed the borders to mainland China,” Morrison told Sydney radio station 2GB in response to the racism accusations.

“There’s no politics or ideology in a pandemic… It’s got nothing to do with politics, this is a virus,” he said.

India has recorded more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases a day for the past 10 days and has over 20 million cases and more than 222,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, said there’s an inconsistency in the nation’s policy and pointed out that bans were not imposed on Australians returning from other nations such as the UK and the US during the height of their coronavirus waves.

“We didn’t see differential treatment being extended to the United States, the UK, and any European country even though the rates of infection were very high and the danger of arrivals from those countries was very high,” Soutphommasane told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

“There are different standards at play here, depending on which part of the world you’re coming from,” he said.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher

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