Australia has not let thousands of citizens down despite the devastating reality that they may not get home for Christmas, Peter Dutton says.
Travellers stranded overseas on Thursday revealed harrowing stories and feelings of betrayal after being unable to get home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on Today, the Home Affairs Minister said the government had brought back urgent cases where there were medical needs and people in desperate situations.
But he warned that people who had been forced to travel overseas in the past month to care for loved ones would struggle to get back for Christmas.
“If people have gone in the last month or so and expect to get back by Christmas it’s tough,” Mr Dutton said.
“Flights have been cancelled or there is not room in hotel quarantine, so just be careful when you make the booking to go.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the government hadn’t let stranded Australians down. Picture: Josh WoningSource:News Corp Australia
At least 36,000 Australians remain overseas with the number of stranded Australians listed as “vulnerable” doubling to 8000 in the five weeks.
Scott Morrison on Friday told 4BC that there were more additional flights organised to come out of Europe.
“We’re meeting the amounts that we hoped to achieve by Christmas, it’s just that more people are looking to come home,” the Prime Minister said.
“Every time we get one (person) home we get another one extra that wants to come, that’s the challenge.”
Mr Dutton was asked if Mr Morrison had let Australians down.
“No, we haven’t,” he said.
“The numbers of people that you can bring into the country is really a function of how many people can go into that hotel quarantine.
“We are working day and night to get as many Australians home by Christmas as possible.”
Repatriation efforts are expected to be significantly boosted with the reopening of Melbourne Airport and quarantine facilities from December 7.
The closure over the past six months is estimated to have cost 70,000 repatriation places.
Passengers arrive at hotel quarantine in Canberra after disembarking from a repatriation flight from India. Picture: Rohan Thomson/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Mr Dutton was also probed about whether Santa would be forced into quarantine before his important present deliveries on Christmas Eve.
“There is a national interest exemption, he is fine, and he will get in,” Mr Dutton said.
“I understand he was most fearful coming to Australia that if he went into quarantine and missed the delivery schedule that he was worried about … dealing with the Queensland Premier.”
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