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Australian government accused of racism over threats to imprison travelers from India for five years

(CNN) — The Australian authorities has been accused of racism after threatening five-year jail sentences for residents who breach a brief ban on journey between India and Australia.

From Monday, Could 3, individuals who have been to India up to now 14 days will be banned from getting into Australia as a result of considerations over India’s rising coronavirus epidemic, which noticed nearly 400,000 instances in a single day on Sunday.
In a press release Saturday, Well being Minister Greg Hunt mentioned anybody who ignored the brand new restrictions would face 5 years’ imprisonment, a effective of $66,600 or each. The ban expires on Could 15, however may very well be renewed.

“The Authorities doesn’t make these selections calmly,” Hunt mentioned within the assertion. “Nevertheless, it’s essential the integrity of the Australian public well being and quarantine programs is protected and the variety of Covid-19 instances in quarantine services is diminished to a manageable stage.”

The brand new restrictions got here after two Australian cricket players traveled to Melbourne by way of Doha to get round a ban on direct passenger flights between India and Australia put in place by the federal government final week.
Native media mentioned it was the primary time any Australians have been criminalized for attempting to return to their dwelling nation. No comparable measures had been put in place on the peak of the Covid-19 epidemics within the UK and the US.
The ban on arrivals from India has confronted robust opposition from Australia’s Indian community, human rights advocates and even members of the federal government itself.

“We ought to be serving to Aussies in India return, not jailing them,” he mentioned. Round 9,000 Australians in India are registered with the federal government as desirous to return to Australia.

Conservative newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt mentioned the ban “stinks of racism” in an article printed Monday, including the choice was “pushed by concern, ignorance and incompetence.”

“I am unable to consider we might impose such a journey ban on white Australians fleeing from, say, England,” he mentioned.

In a press release Saturday, the Australian Human Rights Fee mentioned the journey ban and prison sanctions raised “critical human rights considerations,” and known as for the Senate to review the new measures instantly.

“The necessity for such restrictions should be publicly justified. The Authorities should present that these measures will not be discriminatory and the one appropriate method of coping with the risk to public well being,” the assertion mentioned.

Talking on native radio on Monday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned the choice had been taken “in the very best well being pursuits of Australia.”

He mentioned the powers could be “used responsibly” to implement the block on arrivals from India, to ease stress on the resort quarantine system.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday, April 27.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday, April 27.

Rick Rycroft/AP

At a press convention Sunday, International Minister Marise Payne denied the brand new measures had been racist and mentioned the ban was primarily based on recommendation from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

Nevertheless, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Company on Monday, Kelly mentioned that there was “no recommendation given” to impose fines and jail phrases.

“That is simply how the Biosecurity Act works. If there’s a breach of what’s seen as an use of the emergency powers, then that is what transpires,” Kelly mentioned.

Kelly added that he had informed the federal government one thing wanted to be accomplished concerning the variety of constructive instances coming into Australia’s resort quarantine system.

International Minister Payne mentioned Sunday 57% of coronavirus infections detected in quarantine had been from India at current.

Journalist Angus Watson contributed to this text.

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