BY RAJDEEP SINGH PURI
Thousands of migrant workers have lost their jobs and been forced to rearrange their travel plans since the Australian Government announced the country was to go into lockdown and all “non-essential” businesses were to close.
These travellers are now unable to get home due to travel restrictions, flight cancellations and expensive airfares brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the government announced welfare payments for Australian citizens and residents, those on temporary visas are ineligible.
South American backpacker Juan Lasalle had to cancel his Japan trip due to COVID-19. Shortly after, he lost his job at a hostel. Unable to return home, he is now stuck in Melbourne and surviving off his savings for the foreseeable future.
“I came to Australia in order to work, save some money and then travel. I saved enough money to go to Japan and I wanted to go there in a specific season of the year - spring - which wasn't possible because of the coronavirus.
“After that, my plan was to come back to Australia, work more, and travel again. For now, it doesn't seem that I will be able to do either of those,” Mr Lasalle said.
He is currently in self-isolation with four flatmates in a Southbank apartment.
UK backpacker Zoe Gallon landed in Australia two months ago and planned to stay for at least a year.
As travel restrictions began to increase as a result of COVID-19, Ms Gallon wanted to go home to the UK, but due to heightened airfares, she decided to stay in Melbourne with a friend.
“I was on the west coast on a road trip and had flights to Cairns booked to start a trip down the east coast, but I had to leave my road trip a few days early to drive back to Perth to get a last minute flight to Melbourne before the borders closed,” Ms Gallon said.
“I just finished working at the Adelaide Fringe [Festival] so I have a bit of money to survive a few months while not working. I’m staying at a friend's place for free, which is amazing,” she said.
Unlike Mr Lasalle and Ms Gallon, UK backpacker Molly Parker managed to fly back home to the UK, but experienced several flight cancellations.
She had planned to stay in Australia until the end of the year, but had to change her plans due to financial and social pressures brought on amid the pandemic.
A flight she had booked with Thai Airways to depart on March 24 announced on March 23 that medical certificates were required by passengers to prove they did not have the virus.
“The certificate was near impossible as I didn’t have symptoms such as a high temperature or sore throat, so we weren't allowed to board our flight,” Ms Parker said.
“We waited a while before booking a new flight as we saw online that nobody seemed to be getting home successfully and were losing thousands of dollars on their flights.”
Ms Parker and her travel companion waited until the British Government organised flights to the UK through British Airways. Once confirmed, they booked a flight for the 15th of April, but it was later cancelled too.
"They cancelled flights between the 9th and 22nd of April and announced it on Twitter, but didn't send us any email confirmations. To make up for the cancellation, they put us on a flight for April 1 for no extra charge,” Ms Parker said.
Flights to London from Melbourne are currently available through British Airways with one economy seat costing more than $8000.