CANBERRA: Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has fended off accusations of racism and having blood on his hands Tuesday, as he retreated from a threat to jail Australians trying to escape Covid-wracked India.
Australian authorities moved to ban travelers, including Australian citizens from India entering the country until May 15, threatening rule-breakers, with prison punishment.
Morrison on Tuesday said it was “highly unlikely” that Australians who skirted a ban would be jailed. Prime Minister Morrison in a breakfast-time media blitz said, “I think the likelihood of any of that occurring is pretty much zero.”
Morrison said the idea he had blood on his hands was absurd. The buck stops here when it comes to these decisions, and I’m going to make decisions that I believe are going to protect Australia from a third wave,” he added.
The PM said that he was working to bring them home safely indicating that repatriation flights could begin soon after May 15.
The decision came into force on Monday and was denounced by rights groups and some of Morrison’s most prominent allies including Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt who said it “stinks of racism”.
On Monday, a former Australia cricketer took to Twitter to slam Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government for slapping a ban on Australian citizens returning from India after the culmination of the ongoing IPL 2021 season.
Criticizing Morrison’s statement, Slater tweeted: “If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It’s a disgrace!! Blood on your hands’ PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system.”
If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It's a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect
— Michael Slater (@mj_slats) May 3, 2021
Around 9,000 Australians are believed to be in India, where hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases are being detected every day and the death toll is soaring.
Among those trapped are some of Australia´s most high-profile sporting stars — cricketers playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League.
Commentator and former Test cricket star Michael Slater were among those who pilloried Morrison’s decision, saying it was a “disgrace”.