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

29 March 2020

STRANDED AUSTRALIANS NEED URGENT HELP FROM SCOTT MORRISON

Australians stranded overseas need urgent direct help from the Morrison Government, with Qantas and Virgin international services ending tomorrow.

The week-long delay by the Morrison Government between changing travel advice and finally deciding it would facilitate charters on a “case by case basis”, has meant some of those charters may no longer be viable.

That’s because countries where Australians are stranded appear to have imposed further lockdowns, meaning even government-sanctioned charter flights can’t leave.

Decisive action sooner would have kept more Australians safer.

The Government must act without further delay to get Australians out of unsafe situations and help facilitate urgent shelter and medical supplies for those in need.

Large numbers of Australians are desperate for help in countries including (but not limited to) Nepal, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru.

While Germany has facilitated at least 70 charter flights for its stranded citizens, Australia has managed just two since the initial assisted departures at the beginning of this crisis – one of which was actually first initiated by stranded Australians themselves.

Not only have there been too few seats available for stranded Australians, they have been far too expensive. Those leaving Peru were charged $5,000 per person for one-way economy flights – leaving many Australians priced out of a ticket to safety.

By contrast, the UK charged its citizens £250 per person for evacuation from Peru.

The lack of urgency in the Australian Government response has meant that Australians stranded abroad, trying to get home, have been more likely to be exposed to coronavirus.

One hostel housing Australians had confirmed cases – and now the entire hostel is in quarantine for three months. Australians there have not been able to get medical supplies, whereas Swiss citizens have had supplies from their government.

An open letter from stranded Australians in Peru reads:

One (Australian is) running out of anti-rejection meds for his kidney transplant, he contacted the embassy a week ago and had had no response yet yesterday, so we were able to get him in touch with a clinic in Lima to assist with replacement meds, as his are stuck with customs in Lima. There are at least 4 other medical conditions that need actioning.

The fewer Australians the Morrison Government helps get home, means the more Australians will be stranded in precarious health and safety situations.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.