A Hunter woman who has recently returned to Australia after being stuck in India for 10 months has called on the Australian government to bring stranded citizens home from the COVID ravaged country.
Belmont's Deb Tellis, who lived in India for five years, managed to get a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade flight to Australia in March after the ordeal she went through trying to get home led to her being declared a vulnerable person.
But an estimated 8000 Australians are still stuck in India, which is facing the world's worst COVID-19 outbreak. The country has set a new global record of daily cases in seven of the past eight days.
Ms Tellis said she could not believe the Australian government had paused all flights from the country and was not going in there to bring Australian citizens home, like it did in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic.
"Why isn't there the same concern and emergency? India is now worse than China," she said.
"We're losing valuable time to get people back.
"If they need to quarantine them longer fine so be it. We need to get them out. Take them to Howard Springs or Christmas Island.
"Let's hope it doesn't take Aussies coming home in body bags before the federal government takes the necessary action.
The government has also closed a loophole that allowed travellers from India to fly to Australia after transiting through Qatar.
Ms Tellis said she had an anxiety attack when she heard how much the situation had escalated in India.
"I was just crippled," she said. "I just couldn't believe it, then to have all those flights cut. It doesn't make sense to me anymore."
Ms Tellis said she believed there was a misconception about Australians who were still overseas.
"People think they should have come home, but that's the lie the government has been feeding everyone," she said. "All commercial flights were grounded.
"India is a country that has remained locked. It's hard to get out of India and it's hard to get in to Australia.
"A lot of people have run out of money, those people who are stuck are weighing up quarantine prices on top of tickets.
"Compassion seems to be missing. The attitude is basically 'suck it up, you left'. It's a valuable opportunity to go overseas and work. People say 'oh now you want to come back because it's safer here', well actually we're citizens.
"Every other country has brought their citizens home. The Indian government brought back six million people and shipped people wherever they couldn't fly them."
Ms Tellis is the spokesperson for Free and Open Australia, which has brought a United Nations case against the federal government to bring Australians home. She also moderates Facebook pages for Australians stuck in India and around the world.
She said a lot of people stuck in India were scared.
"I think they're living with a lot of fear now," she said. "They feel so abandoned and it's not for the lack of trying that they're stuck there."
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