After waiting for almost two years, F Rafique was ready to fly to Australia on 1 December. He had already checked in when he received the news that the plan to open the borders had been put on hold.
“I was supposed to come back tomorrow. My flight was to board tomorrow. I already checked in, and they just closed the border again for temporary visa holders,” Mr Rafique posted in a Facebook group.
The Australian Government has paused the planned easing of border restrictions for eligible visa holders, including international students while awaiting further information on COVID-19’s Omicron.
The National Security Committee of cabinet decided to defer the plan to ease restrictions until 15 December following medical advice from the Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.
The Government says the temporary pause will gather more intelligence about the new Omicron variant of COVID-19. Further details are awaited.
The decision has left many migrants devastated.
A Facebook user S Aamir wrote, “Literally crying. They don’t know what we have been going through for the last two years.”
L Goswamy wrote on Facebook, “This is happening second time with me. When they closed their borders first time in March last year, just a week left to my departure flight and this time too. My bad luck.”
Australian borders were closed for temporary visa holders in March last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that from 1 December 2021, fully vaccinated, eligible visa holders would be allowed to enter Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption. However, the concerns about the newly found Omicron variant of the Coronavirus has forced many countries, including Australia, to take precautionary measures.
Migration expert Chaman Preet says so many families who had been separated due to border closures were awaiting reunion.
“This was something they were looking forward to. However, the flight cancellations have left many devastated and unsure of when they would be able to meet their loved ones,” said Ms Chaman Preet, director of Melbourne-based Migration and Education Experts.
The number of Omicron cases in Australia stands at five as four cases have been detected in NSW and one in the Northern Territory inside the Howard Springs quarantine facility.
An 80-member multi-disciplinary network of Australia’s leading experts in several fields is studying the strategy to mitigate the risks of further lockdowns in the country.