Stranded abroad, Australians lodge UN petition against government for ‘right to return home’

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"A group of Australian citizens representing tens of thousands of people who have been stranded overseas by border closures and flight caps, some since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, are taking their complaint against the Australian government to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, arguing they have been denied the basic human right to return home.

Last week they launched legal action by petitioning the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva to challenge the Australian government’s policy, which they say violates human rights law.

Prominent Australian-born, British human rights advocate Geoffrey Robertson QC, whose firm represents WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, will be presenting the petition at the UN Human Rights Committee. He has spoken out against sweeping caps on arriving Australians because the mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine programme imposed by the state governments already addresses any health risks posed by returning citizens.

This petition represents all Australians stuck abroad,” said Jason, who estimates that the real figure of those wanting to return far exceeds the 40,000 quoted by DFAT.

Legal scholar and citizenship expert Kim Rubenstein believes “there’s a real question as to the lawfulness” of these caps on returning Australians. Without a bill of rights outlining the rights of Australian citizens  – in fact, Australia is one of the few democracies not to have a bill of rights – there is no means available to them within Australia’s judicial system to challenge the government on its repatriation policy.

Morrell hopes that the petition to the UN will lead to the government taking action.

“It seems citizenship ends at the border and once you’ve left Australian shores your rights are no longer those of the rights of other Australians. It’s the thin edge of the wedge.

“At the moment it's impacting ex-patriates wanting to repatriate but next time the government flexes its muscles against its citizens it could be some other group."  "