27 April 2021

Canberra's multicultural community rallies to return 8000 Australians stranded in India

| Michael Weaver
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Federation of Indian Associations of ACT members

Federation of Indian Associations of ACT Sunita Dhindsa (6th from left) with members of the ACT Indian community during an event earlier this month. Photo: Federation of Indian Associations of ACT Facebook.

The Federal Government has announced it is suspending flights from India to Australia until 15 May, leaving an estimated 8000 Australian nationals stranded.

In response, Canberra’s Indian community is calling for quarantine capacity to be increased so Australians in India can return home safely as a deadly wave of COVID-19 sweeps their homeland.

Up to 15,000 people in the Canberra and Queanbeyan area have relatives in India. In the past 24 hours, around 3000 people in India have died from COVID-19 and around 350,000 new cases have been confirmed. The country is seeing mass cremations as the health system struggles to cope with the demand for oxygen and hospital beds.

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Federation of Indian Associations of the ACT president Dr Sunita Dhindsa said the region’s Indian community felt more isolated than ever as they tried to stay in touch with loved ones.

Dr Dhindsa said safely returning as many Australians as possible was their priority.

“There is a lot of anxiety here. Every person here has friends or relatives in India who have been impacted by COVID, including my sister and her family,” Dr Dhindsa told Region Media.

While emphasising that they would never jeopardise the safety of people in Australia, Dr Dhindsa called on Canberra’s multicultural community and the federal government to support more measures to get Australians in India back home and into quarantine.

“Australians in India deserve to be home, just as we deserve to be safe. We want Australians to be safe, but there are things we can do to help the country and help people safely return to Australia,” she said.

“We could look at bringing 1000 people back and quarantining them on an offshore quarantine facility.

“The virus has been happening for over a year now, and we’ve had these windows where we could have brought more people back home. It’s just that the quarantine system has not supported us all along.

“We now know how to address the risks of bringing people back in bigger numbers.”

Dr Dhindsa said Canberrans could support India by donating to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund or non-government organisations on the ground.

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Canberra Multicultural Community Forum chair and president of the Canberra Chinese Association, Chin Wong, said they felt for their friends in India.

“We realise how difficult it is when you have to watch the news and things feel like they are out of your control in your home country,” Ms Wong said.

“We are discussing with our friends in the Indian community what we can do, even as little as providing food for Australians wanting to come back to Canberra when they need to be isolated.

“We also support the Indian community to call on the Federal Government and the multicultural community to provide as much support as possible and help them get through this phase.”

Deepak Raj-Gupta

Deepak Raj-Gupta said it was time for Australia to step up. Photo: File.

Indian-born former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly Deepak Raj-Gupta said it was time for Australia to step up and extend a helping hand during India’s hour of need.

“Indian diasporas in the ACT are worried about their loved ones who are now stranded in India due to various reasons and went to India on an exemption,” Mr Gupta said.

He understood Australia’s need to keep the COVID-19 virus out of the country, but suggested vaccines could be sent to more than 8ooo Australian citizens stuck in India.

“Australia also has the capabilities of constructing temporary health facilities,” he said.

“Some local residents have been stuck in India for a long period of time and have been trying to come home for months. The delay in coming home has already started to take an emotional toll on many local community members.”

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Because the photo was taking from a Harmony Day event earlier in the month.

Even the photo caption gives you context.

Capital Retro12:00 pm 28 Apr 21

The COVID 19 pandemic has been around more than a few weeks.

russianafroman11:10 am 28 Apr 21

I understand why the Indian community wants to look out for their people. I would to if my people were stuck overseas. Unfortunately what should remain a priority is getting Australia under control before we try to solve problems in other countries. If we allow Indians to travel back to Australia, we will soon have the Bangladeshi people petitioning the same thing, the Pakistani petitioning the same thing and let’s say the Turkish people the same thing. It simply opens the gates. Because if the Indian people can come back, why can’t the Pakistani people come back? We must deny these requests and wait until Australia has solved this issue first before we solve everyone else’s problems.

It looks like you have the issue at hand mixed up. The article is about bringing back ‘Australians’ in India – not about bringing/allowing Indians (or Bangladeshi, Pakistani etc) back into Australia at the moment. Any thoughts based on this new information? 🙂

While it is unfortunate that some people are stuck overseas, it was ultimately their choice to leave Australia. The priority needs to be on protecting Australia from the virus. The Australian government needs to stop all international flights here and do what is best for Australia by keeping the virus out of Australia at all costs.

A heartless comment. Yes, it is (mostly) everybody’s choice to leave Australia and at the time they left there was no virus threat. You obviously have not kept up with the difficulties people have faced trying to return.

Why should one person be allowed in to potentially infect others? If one person is allowed to enter from a high risk country, that person is potentially infecting hundreds (or thousands) of people here. It is a very selfish view to put one person ahead of thousands of others. One individual’s wants should not be put ahead of the wellbeing of a whole country. Due to bringing in people from overseas, other people’s businesses in Australia have had to close because of lockdowns, plus also weddings cancelled, people cannot attend funerals etc. Please have a broader view of the wellbeing of the whole Australian community.

Stephen Saunders8:32 am 28 Apr 21

Call me the r-word but Acton is dead right. Mainstream media should be digging much deeper, who exactly gave multiple exit approvals to Indian diaspora, and why on earth. But, as usual, Scotty and his God of Rapture get a saloon passage.

By way of comparison, if I claimed fake “compassionate and humanitarian” grounds, there seems to be no US barrier to me visiting my US-based son. But, until both of us are fully jabbed, and then some, we wouldn’t even dream of trying it on.

I don’t think you’re racist, just ill informed.

The criteria for leaving Australia is the same for everyone and it’s not like the majority of Australian people in India are holiday makers who just decided to hop on home for a quick trip. The cases in India have only really surged in the last month, so it makes perfect sense that there has been a lag for action to be taken.

Despite your clear partisanship and political bias, there is no conspiracy here. You can read the criteria and apply here if you want to go overseas:


And you can read the total amounts of people coming and going from Australia here:


russianafroman11:11 am 28 Apr 21

Haha that is not racist

Stephen Saunders4:09 pm 28 Apr 21

Even at “lower” Indian infection levels, frivolous two-way flights should never have been approved. Not with a consistent 35K Australians stuck overseas.

Morrison’s swift clampdown tells you two things. First, he knows he went too far. Second, he’ll never reveal, why the approvals happened. Contrary to your assumption, I don’t support either party, only the citizen’s right to know.

Let’s return to those 35K stranded. Our stats are clear. Since 1 January, non-citizens comfortably outnumber citizens, in arrivals. How can that be right? Even the United Nations, world HQ of political correctness, says it sucks.

Why go to India for a wedding or sport or whatever and then put Australian lives at risk on return? They should not have travelled to a known Covid hotspot. This is pure selfishness, if not contempt for the welfare of others. Their self-indulgence is putting all of us at risk and they deserve neither sympathy or support.

There is news of a Vistara airlines flight from Delhi to Hong Kong earlier this month in which 52 passengers returned positive tests despite testing negative before boarding. I think it would be safest to keep the border restrictions until it is safe to resume flights safely and that the discrepancies are addressed. I do have sympathy and would also like to travel overseas but have to sacrifice doing so, even if it is inconvenient and at a loss. I hope that a normal situation can resume sooner.

HiddenDragon8:11 pm 27 Apr 21

Jurisdictions (particularly those which have had various “pauses” and reductions over the past year) which are currently pushing for special and separate arrangements for international students, will need to tread very carefully until this issue, and the broader issue of returning Australians, is resolved.

The government has done the right thing by stopping arrivals from India. The latest arrivals from India to WA had false documents saying they were clear of COVID-19. Unfortunately 58 of 59 were positive for the disease.

Until the lies stop, and better protocols at India and Australia improve, I have no issues with stopping any flights from the sub-continent.

Where on earth have you pulled those case numbers from?

Whilst you may be correct that there’s potential issues with the testing regimes and accuracy in India, there haven’t been 58 of 59 arrivals test positive.

You may be referencing the fact that 78 of the last 79 arrivals into WA have passed through India, but only 4 have since tested positive in hotel quarantine.

You have stated people used false documents to get flights from India.
Please could you substantiate that with an official statement?
If it is not proven true then you should really withdraw rather the comment.

I think you’ll find that the 4 you’re talking about are new on the WA daily reports.

In the last month 40% of new cases in WA have been from India, or people who have visited India.

Yes I know, which is why I raised it as a possible reason for your error.

So I assume from your dodging of the question, you now agree that your figures were wrong.

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