When Mansi Garg left for India to meet her parents in February last year, she had no clue she would be saying goodbye to her job and her home in Sydney, and only seeing her husband online.
Mansi is one of thousands of Australians stranded overseas due to Australian government’s COVID-19 related travel restrictions.
Her story resembles many of the stranded Aussies.
“I had just come here for some time off. My sister, who lives in Melbourne, and I had come to India to see our parents. Then COVID got out of control, and there was a lockdown in India which made it hard for us to get flights and get back to Australia,” Mansi Garg told NRI Affairs over the phone from India.
Later, when some flights were available, Mansi’s sister returned to Australia but Mansi decided to stay back with her parents.
“A couple of months later, when India was not in a complete lockdown, Australia had by that time announced the travel ban where they had put restrictions on anyone who was a non-citizen or non-PR (temporary visa holders) to enter into Australia. At that point, I decided not to go back because I wanted to stay here with my parents, knowing that if I did leave India, I would not be able to come back to them. My sister had to go back as she had a young child, and I decided to stay here with my parents and ensure that they were safe.”
Now, Mansi is in India waiting for Australia to lift the travel ban on parents.
According to the travel restrictions put in place during the pandemic, only Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members can enter Australia. However, parents are not considered immediate family members.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, “You are only considered to be an immediate family member if you are a spouse, a de facto partner, a dependent child, a legal guardian.”
Mansi finds it inappropriate that parents are not considered immediate family members.
“I’ve never heard anybody not consider parents as family. I don’t know what kind of people think parents are not immediate family. They are my responsibility. They have taken care of me all my life. It is my turn to take care of them. I am expected to abandon them, heartlessly come back into Australia and follow rules which are absolutely baseless and inhuman and then live the rest of my life in guilt, knowing that I could not fulfil my responsibilities towards my parents when they needed me because the government said so. I’m sorry, but I refuse to be even anything like this,” says Mansi, who has left her job in Sydney.
Many immigrants have been demanding to add parents to the immediate family members’ list to allow them to arrive in Australia.
A petition (Petition EN2535 – Exemption for parents of Australians and Permanent Residents) to the government of Australia demands to add parents as an exemption category.
“If exemptions cannot be obtained for parents coming to Australia, please consider allowing an exemption for people with family overseas to travel. Reunification with family should be a compelling and compassionate reason,” reads the petition that over 65,000 people have signed.
Mansi Garg says that the Government is being very inconsiderate.
“What kind of a life are we expected to live? Are we animals or what? At what point did we decide that parents are not immediate family. And, who decided that on our behalf? It is sad that the government has made such rule.”
“I am embarrassed and ashamed as humanity that we can actually abandon parents and be okay with that,” says Mansi adding that she has no option but to wait until Australia lifts the ban and allows parents to travel to Australia.