Australia says chance of jail remote for India travel ban offenders

Australia PM faces backlash over ban on returning citizens from India

Australia PM faces backlash over ban on returning citizens from India

But that system has come under increasing strain as the virus has jumped from quarantine facilities and caused a series of outbreaks in the largely unvaccinated community.

Threatening a five-year jail term or hefty fine, the Australian government temporarily barred its citizens from entering the country if they happened to be in India within 14 days of their intended arrival.

A libertarian group LibertyWorks took its case to the full bench of the Federal Court on Thursday against a separate order under the Biosecurity Act that has prevented most Australians from leaving the country without compelling reasons since March past year.

"This was a necessary step to ensure that we can help more Australian citizens and residents get home, and at the same time, bring them home safely in a way that did not risk a third wave here in Australia, " he said, adding that a "good progress" was being made towards restoring repatriation flights.

A challenge to the ban by Gary Newman, one of 9,000 Australians prevented from returning home from India, will be heard by a Federal Court judge on Monday, Chief Justice James Allsop said.

However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison's decision to block all travel for two weeks from India, which is in the midst of a massive wave of COVID-19 infections, has been widely criticised.

Mr Morrison said he was not anxious about the travel ban, asserting that the backlash would not impact the government's relationship with India. The three judges said at the end of Thursday's hearing that they will announce their verdicts at a later date. "So we would anticipate there'd be hundreds of thousands of Australians that do want to travel".

They are challenging the ban on multiple bases, including on constitutional grounds.

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When asked specifically about the situation concerning Aussie cricketers stranded in the global COVID hotspot, Morrison previously said there would not be any preferential treatment, even when repatriation flights resume on May 15.

Meanwhile, Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said that the government was reviewing the India travel ban "every single day".

Mr Morrison said it was a hard decision to make and acknowledged his government would be criticised.

AIBC, in a statement, said that though it appreciates the gesture by the federal government providing relief material to India, it was concerned about the temporary border closure, imposition of fines and jail terms for those wanting to return from India.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Indian-Australian community leaders had been understanding of the government's reasons for the travel ban during a nationwide online meeting on Wednesday. "It's because the government has shown the resilience and has shown the foresightedness to make these decisions".

"In my opinion, it's a ban without a plan".

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the government's response to India's pandemic crisis "has been regrettable, has been short sighted and hasn't been thought through".

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