Family’s plea for mercy

Indians queue up for a COVID-19 vaccine.

By Luke Voogt

Davinder Singh had been set to reunite with his wife and son next Thursday, before India’s COVID-19 crisis spiralled out of control.

After obtaining a permanent residency for his wife and an Australian citizenship for his five-year-old son last November, he booked a flight for them for May 13, he told the Independent.

“I was waiting for such a long time and now this happens,” the Geelong taxi driver said.

“I’m really worried for them because the situation. The hospital and medical services are not very good over there.”

Davinder moved to Geelong in 2001 and has been a permanent resident since 2005.

He met his “kind-hearted” wife in 2015 before marrying her in 2016, and before COVID-19 would visit her in India for long periods each year.

“They were so happy when they knew they were coming, but now they are worried as well,” he said.

With several thousand Indian-Australians living in Geelong, Davinder is just one of many with family members – including Australian citizens and permanent residents – in India.

Indian Association of Geelong spokesperson Mandeep Singh (not related to Davinder) urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to overturn federal government’s decision to make travelling from India to Australia a crime under the Biosecurity Act.

“I was quite shocked by the travel ban imposed by the Morrison government and the $65,000 fine for people coming, and [up to five years’] jail,” he said.

“This is unfair behaviour. It’s not democracy and it’s not Australia.

“The Sikh and Indian communities gave a huge contribution during the height of COVID-19 in Australia.”

Mr Morrison has previously insisted the ban is proportionate, necessary to avoid a third wave of COVID-19 in Australia and based on expert medical advice.

But ABC reported yesterday that federal government is considering using the Howard Springs quarantine facility exclusively for returned travellers from India when the temporary ban ends.

About 9000 Australians are currently in India, including approximately 900 classed as vulnerable.

The Indian Association of Geelong is set to launch a campaign to raise funds for medical supplies to send to India.

The association plans to release details on its Facebook page in coming days.