ABF statement on traveller figures

As outlined in our previous media release dated 15 April 2021, commentary stating that half of travellers arriving into Australia are non-citizens is misleading in the context of transmitting COVID19 and taking quarantine places away from Australian citizens.

Data from other sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing a high number of non-citizens arriving into Australia can only report on the passport used to enter Australia. It’s important to note that many Permanent Residents and their immediate family members will be dual citizens meaning they frequently travel on foreign passports.

As previously stated, on average over 80 per cent of international arrivals required to quarantine within the hotel quarantine caps are Australian citizens, permanent residents (PRs) or their immediate family.

Those travellers who do not need to quarantine include people arriving from New Zealand as part of the safe travel zone, meaning they pose a limited health risk to the community and do not take up quarantine places needed for Australians.

Several reports have been combining international arrivals from New Zealand with arrivals from other countries and making the comparison that this high number is contributing to spread of COVID19 and the lack of quarantine places for Australians however this is not the case.

Australia’s travel restrictions and travel exemption policy settings support our efforts to return as many Australians as possible by ensuring any travel into Australia by a foreign national is limited to a very limited range of exemption criteria and are set based on advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

All foreign nationals who do not have an automatic exemption to Australia’s travel restrictions must have an exemption to Australia’s travel restrictions, either because they were providing a critical skill or demonstrated compelling and compassionate circumstances.

Between 25 March 2020 and 31 May 2021,156,507 Australian citizens and permanent residents have been given exemptions to depart Australia. During this same period, 84,031 requests from Australian citizens and permanent to leave Australia were denied.

From 20 March 2020 to 31 May 2021, 49,017 foreign nationals have had their inbound travel exemption request approved to travel to Australia. During this same period, 104,507 foreign nationals have had their inbound travel exemption request to travel to Australia denied. More than half of these approvals were for those proving a critical skill to Australia.

The number of travel exemptions granted does not correlate to the number of international border movements. For example some exemptions may be granted but the individual chooses not to travel.

There have also been claims that thousands of people are leaving Australia and returning multiple times, however between 20 March 2020 and 20 April 2021, 13,762 Australians and permanent residents travelled to Australia on more than one occasion, this includes people who have legitimate reasons to undertake multiple trips, many of whom don’t take quarantine places from returning Australians. These include:

  • arrivals from New Zealand within the Safe Travel Zone
  • members of the Australian Defence Force, medevac crew, and medical or security escorts
  • “positioning air crew” and crew returning to Australia as passengers after departing as active crew members
  • travel between mainland Australia and Christmas Island.

In addition to hotel quarantine as a first line of defence, all travellers must present evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken 72 hours or less before the scheduled departure to Australia, unless travelling on a quarantine-free flight from New Zealand.

Australian citizens and permanent residents under 50 years of age who have an approved outwards travel exemption in an eligible category are automatically eligible to receive a COVID19 vaccination.

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