Thousands of Australians have travelled overseas, some up to five times, since the international borders closed last year – here’s how they did it
- New figures reveal 134,758 Aussies allowed to leave the country in the past year
- Some people were granted permission to depart on multiple occasions
- National security committee to meet to discuss tightening exemption criteria
Thousands of Australians have beaten the border closures and travelled back and forth from overseas multiple times in the past year.
Australian Border Force figures show 134,758 Australian citizens and permanent residents were granted exemptions to depart the country between March 20 last year, when the lockdowns began, and April 20 this year.
Just over a quarter of them (37,456) were allowed to leave on compassionate or humanitarian grounds.
New figures reveal almost 140,000 Aussie citizens and permanent residents were allowed to leave the country between March 20 last year and April 20 this year. Pictured, travellers at Sydney Airport
More than 10 per cent (almost 14,000) were given permission to fly out returned and then departed again on more than one occasion, with some leaving five times, the Herald Sun reported.
The ABF said the 13,762 Australians who left more than once in the past 12 months included those who had ‘legitimate reasons to undertake multiple trips, many of whom don’t take quarantine places from returning Australians’.
They included members of the Australian Defence Force, medical workers, airline crew, and those who travelled to and from New Zealand after travel bubble started on April 19.
The national security committee will meet on Thursday to look at tightening the exemption criteria, even as other countries open up international travel.
‘I’m concerned about these figures, which is why I’ve directed the Australian Border Force to provide me with advice on how outbound travel exemptions can be tightened,’ Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said.
Shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally said the government gave out ‘far more travel exemptions than there are seats on planes or quarantine places in Australia’.
Australia shut its international border at 9pm AEDT on March 20 last year, with only citizens and permanent residents allowed to enter, with the exception of the New Zealand travel bubble that came 13 months later.
Australia shut its borders on March 20 last year, with only citizens and permanent residents allowed to enter, with the exception of the travel bubble arrangement with New Zealand which started on April 19 this year. Pictured, travellers arriving in Sydney this month
Australians returning from overseas must undertake two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine on return. Pictured, a returned traveller entering quarantine in Melbourne last month
The government is not anticipating reopening the borders, beyond the NZ travel bubble and perhaps a few more to come, until mid-2022.
Australians who have been in India in the past 14 days are banned entirely from entering until Saturday.
The government came under fire when it was revealed a man who sparked a snap three-day lockdown in Perth after testing positive to Covid was granted permission to fly to India to get married before returning to Australia four months later.
Comedian Adam Hills last month defended being allowed to travel back and forth between Australia and London on multiple occasions.
‘I can see how it looks as if I’m just flitting in and out,’ he told The Age.
‘I kind of want to explain to people that look, just before Covid hit, we decided my wife and kids were going to move to Melbourne and I was going to stay in London and try and go back and forth.
‘And unfortunately, this thing has meant I had to choose between either feeding my family or seeing them. I tried to do both as best I can.’