A federal judge in Australia has denied an emergency legal challenge to Canberra’s controversial ban on citizens returning home from India, amid a spike in Covid cases across the Asian nation.
Monday’s ruling came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison imposed a temporary ban on all travel from India, including by Australian citizens, over fears the country’s quarantine facilities would be unable to cope with monitoring potentially infected travelers.
Federal Justice Thomas Thawley ruled that, despite concerns about the legality of the ban, the Australian government had not overstepped its biosecurity powers by closing its border while case numbers are spiraling in India.
Currently, it is estimated that around 9,000 Australian citizens are stranded, facing either remaining in India, where they are at risk of Covid, or being hit with a large fine and potentially prison time if they attempt to skirt the ban by taking a non-direct flight home.
The case was brought by a 73-year-old Australian citizen who is trying to return home from Bangalore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. However, the court agreed with the government that biosecurity measures can overrule other rights, such as a citizen’s right to return. The current restrictions are set to remain until May 15.
Since early in the pandemic, Australian citizens have had to either remain in the country or risk an uncertain length of time abroad before being able to easily return home. The government has effectively banned overseas travel, with foreign visitors needing to secure individual exemptions to enter the island nation.
All travelers entering Australia currently have to undergo government-approved mandatory quarantine for at least 14 days from arrival, unless they are entering from a green travel zone or have the aforementioned exemption.
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