India travel ban is ‘draconian’ use of Govt powers

Criminalising travel from India to Australia is an intrusive and severe use of the Federal Government’s powers, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) and the Government must take responsibility for creating better quarantine processes to enable Australians to return home.

“The India travel ban challenges the very essence of citizenship,” said Mr Greg Barns SC, national criminal justice spokesperson, ALA. “Australian citizens merely trying to return to their own country are effectively being criminalised by this ban.

“The Government needs to be very transparent about why they are employing such extreme measures.

“It is a disturbing use of the Biosecurity Act 2015 and could be challenged if it can be shown that other less intrusive measures could have been taken. The question is: what else could have been done that would be less restrictive and would both protect residents and also help Australians come home?

“The ban gives the impression that the law has been used for a discriminatory purpose as these extreme measures were not implemented when COVID-19 was rampant in the UK or the US.”

Citizens have a right to enter Australia and this is protected under Article 12(4) of the International Covenant in Civil and Political Rights.

“Being a citizen means you have the right to return to your own country and, more than a year into the pandemic, there are still many Australians who have been unable to return home,” said Mr Barns SC. “The Commonwealth has a responsibility to put in place quarantine facilitates and processes to enable Australians to safely come home.

“This ban illustrates the need for Australia to have a legislated human rights charter to protect rights such as these from arbitrary government action.”

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