Australians in India have been warned not to get on a plane home if they want to avoid five years in jail and a $60,000 fine.
Direct commercial flights from India were banned last week as the nation of 1.4 billion battles a surge in illnesses and death, with 357,229 fresh cases on Tuesday.
The government also took the ‘extraordinary’ step of threatening anyone who gets around the ban with fines and jail under the Biosecurity Act.
Direct commercial flights from India were banned last week. Pictured: A cremation site in New Delhi
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the powers would not be used and no-one would be jailed.
But Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the best way to avoid jail is to obey the rules.
‘So, I understand the concerns that people have at the moment and quite frankly the best way to avoid the prospect of any fines, any sanctions, is to not get on a plane and come here in the first instance,’ she told the ABC.
‘Would I like to see the sanction applied? Clearly not. The best way for that not to happen, as I’ve just said, is for people not to get on those planes.’
The ban is legally contentious because international human rights law states that ‘no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country’.
Minister Andrews defended the ban, saying: It’s a balance of making sure that we are protecting all of the Australians who are here now.
‘We have done so well in making sure that Australians are safe and secure and that’s a big credit to all Australians.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the best way to avoid jail is to obey the rules
‘What this government is not going to do is put Australians at risk. We will look to reopen as soon as we can. We are working on that every single day.
‘This is a temporary pause and we will do our best to get those vulnerable Australians home as quickly as we can.’
Earlier, Mr McCormack was quizzed about why the government has threatened jail time if it wasn’t going to be enforced.
He said: ‘Obviously, there needs to be a hard line taken as far as the overall act being in place, but nobody’s going to be jailed… at this time. The prime minister made it clear.
‘We have taken this pause. We have made it in the national interest. We have done it, based on the best possible medical advice. It’s until May 15. We review it constantly, as you’d expect us to do.’
Opponents have called the move ‘horrific and racist’ and accused the government of abandoning 9,000 Australian citizens and residents by suspending rescue flights until May 15.
But many Indian-Australians are pleased with the uncompromising stance to keep the nation safe from the lethal virus, which has caused 3.2 million deaths and infected 153 million people around the world.
Migration consultant Alexandra Forwood (left), 35, and her partner Ashish Dube (right), 34, applauded the border closure
Commerce and law student Rishab Jain, from Ryde in north-west Sydney, said the ban was not racist but medically necessary.
‘I believe the relative risk of allowing 9,000 people to enter the country from India is too high,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on the steps of the Murugan Hindu temple in Mays Hill, western Sydney.
‘It’s not about racism, it’s because India has the most cases in the world at the moment.
‘The situation warrants the measures that the government has implemented.’
His 59-year-old father Rajesh, who migrated to Australia two decades ago and now runs a wholesale business, also supported the ban.
‘I think it’s a good move and it’s designed to keep everyone here safe,’ he said.
Commerce and law student Rishab Jain (left), from Ryde in north-west Sydney, said the ban was not racist but medically necessary. He is pictured with his mother Geetika and father Rajesh