As it looks less likely the PM’s promise to bring everyone home by Christmas will come true, Australians marooned overseas are growing so desperate that some are considering chartering boats.
Shane Taylor was meant to fly out from Manila in the Philippines on November 6. This week he was told by his flight agency there is not enough room to quarantine him, so his flight has been cancelled.
It’s the sixth time Mr Taylor has had a flight cancelled since getting stuck in the Philippines seven months ago.
“I was only meant to stay for a month. Six times it’s been cancelled” he told The New Daily.
“I was working as a cleaner, but I’ve lost all that. Now I won’t have a job, and I’ll be in debt because I’ve had to have my brother send me money.”
Mr Taylor was visiting his wife in Dumaguete city, where she lives. Soon after he arrived the whole country went into lockdown.
“The country here was already lockdown when the PM told everyone to come home.
“All the ferries had locked down, all the airports had lockdown, and then people were booking tickets but they kept getting cancelled all the time,” he said.
He said he had been discussing chartering a boat with other Australians also stuck in the Philippines and equally desperate to get home.
“The problem there is you have to go past Indonesia,” he said, “It’s dangerous.”
Riding the waves was raised “sort of jokingly, but there were some serious people discussing it.”
He is now thousands of dollars in debt to his brother, has lost his job and cannot find a way home. He said the government needed to end the caps or send in the RAAF.
“Those caps, get rid of the caps, it’s just ridiculous,” he said.
“I don’t know how the hell they get away with it. They just don’t’ care! El Presidente here has got most of his people back here and this is a poor country.”
With nothing to do but wait, he is hoping for some good news soon.
“I hope after Christmas it just gets back to normal, but I don’t think it will.”
Around 400,000 Australians have been brought home since March but the government is facing increasing criticism for not acting faster to bring back the remaining 34,000 – many of them in vulnerable positions.
On Thursday, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) secretary, Frances Adamson, defended some consuls’ decision to send stranded Australians lists of homeless shelters in their area.
“I know there has been a level of discussion about homeless shelters but actually if you are homeless and you’ve been turned away and have nowhere else to go, a list of homeless shelters is actually a practical thing to have,” she told Senate estimates.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted to bring all Australians registered abroad home before Christmas but it would depend on the availability of flights and help quarantining returned travellers from the states and territories – including Victoria.
“We continue to make good progress towards returning Australians home and we want to do that as effectively and quickly and safely as possible,” Mr Morrison said last week.
“If we can get Victoria opened up again in the weeks ahead, preferably or hopefully not longer than that, then that will really give us a bit more pace in getting people back before Christmas.
“Those 26,000 that I said before, we want to get them home by Christmas.”
On Wednesday, Labor Senator Penny Wong said the government had put unfair blame on Australians for not returning home earlier.
“We all know what happened to the commercial aviation market. There were not many opportunities for people to return home,” she told Senate estimates.
“There were people who were desperate to come home through that period who did not have the opportunity to return.”