SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

9 April 2020

LONG-AWAITED PROGRESS FOR STRANDED AUSTRALIANS — MORE NEEDED

Labor welcomes the Foreign Minister’s announcement that she is taking some more active steps to support stranded Australians getting to safety.

It has been clear for weeks that commercial options have not been available for Australians stranded overseas.

The delays in taking more active steps – that were always going to be necessary – are putting the health and safety of stranded Australians at risk.

Reports from stranded Australians have included:

  • Lack of access to essential medicines;
  • Local uprisings and vigilantism, and foreigners being targeted as spreaders of coronavirus; and
  • Lack of suitable shelter as commercial accommodation closes down.

In addition, in many locations there is a greater risk of contracting coronavirus – with less access to medical treatment.

These worsening risks have been faced by stranded citizens of other countries – which is why governments have been so active in repatriating their nationals, including:

  • Germany has arranged 170 flights for its citizens – with additional major repatriation operations by the European Union;
  • Canada has organised well over a dozen flights from different locations; and
  • The United Kingdom has been working with its airlines in operations to repatriate its citizens.

Each country has used different approaches, but all have prioritised the safety of their citizens.

The flights announced today by the Foreign Minister are welcome progress, but we remain concerned about big upfront costs for Australians trying to get home.

By now, stranded Australians have lost thousands on flights that have been cancelled without refunds.

Emergency loans are theoretically available but stranded Australians have struggled to get any response to requests for help.

We look forward to further announcements of more active steps in bringing Australians to safety.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.