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Australian Government imposing arbitrary & inconsistent rules

A media release by the Human Rights Law Centre:


Arbitrary and inconsistent rules imposed by the Australian Government are unfairly keeping people separated from their families, the Human Rights Law Centre warned in its submission to an audit of Australia’s COVID-19 international travel restrictions.


The Australian National Audit Office is investigating the Morrison Government’s management of international travel restrictions, which have prevented anyone except Australian citizens, permanent residents and people with special exemptions from entering the country since 20 March 2020. These restrictions have come at a huge cost to many people with family members and loved ones overseas who are barred from Australia indefinitely.


The Human Rights Law Centre told the watchdog that a range of restrictive policies are keeping families apart, including:

  • a narrow definition of ‘family’ that prevents people from seeing close relatives including parents and fiancés;

  • that people on temporary visas have no right to reunite with family members at all; and

  • the suspension of the humanitarian resettlement program that has stopped many Australians from welcoming family members to a new life in safety.

The Human Rights Law Centre is calling for changes to the international travel restrictions to give families the greatest chance to be together, including extending automatic exemptions to more family members and to families of temporary visa holders, lowering the harsh threshold for compassionate exemptions, and giving humanitarian visa holders the same right to travel to Australia as other permanent residents.


Josephine Langbien, a Senior Lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre said:


“More than 15 months on from the start of the pandemic, travel restrictions that were understood to be temporary measures remain in place. The strain on people separated from their loved ones cannot be underestimated and must be addressed."


“The reality is that international travel is still allowed. People are coming in and out every day for business, politics, and events. But right now, the Federal Government's complex web of restrictions and exemptions is leaving many families indefinitely separated. While wealthy investors and people on business trips are allowed to travel, many people cannot see their parents, their fiancé, their brother or sister if they are not Australian residents."


“Policies that keep people cut off from their relatives and loved ones should never be the accepted norm. The Morrison Government could make common sense changes today that would give families a fairer chance of seeing each other again."


“The decision to halve the number of international arrivals into Australia means that now more than ever the Government must reassess how it prioritises international arrivals. It must focus on helping people reunite with their loved ones quickly and safely.”


The Audit Office is expected to deliver its report in November 2021. Visit this link to read the full submission by the Human Rights Law Centre.

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