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Australians stranded in London attack embassy help

written by Adam Thorn | September 14, 2020

Hundreds of expats stranded in London due to Australia’s arrival caps have branded moves by the local embassy to help as “too little, too late”.

The Australian high commission’s latest initiative included dispatching teams to Heathrow to personally help those who find their flights cancelled or delayed at the last minute.

Rules limiting the number of Australians who can return home at any one time were first introduced in July to regulate the flow of people arriving into government quarantine facilities and have been extended multiple times.


Critics have argued that decision has stopped Australians abroad being able to return home by reducing availability and increasing prices.

George Brandis, high commissioner for Australia to the UK, said on Twitter, “It’s tough to head home right now: but we’re determined to help and support however we can.”

Twitter user Sally Grove responded by arguing, “How about instead of having to send traumatised people who arrive for flights to homeless shelters, you work with the airlines so the flights they’ve had booked for months actually leave and honour their bookings.”


Other advice recently released by the high commission on Facebook tells those struggling to simply “ring up your airline” and be “ready to move”, which has led to a furious response from many.


“So basically this is just a media PR exercise to show that our government actually does care about its citizens so much that they’ll put embassy and HC staff at airports to provide assistance to those who need it, without actually doing anything meaningful, like lifting the caps,” said Robin Lee.

“And maybe stop Aussies stranded at airports talking to the media. It must look great to those back home watching it on the news. Kind, caring, compassionate. The true Aussie spirit, helping your mates out when they’re in trouble.”

Emily Lillian said, “We keep being told you are ‘working on it’ but nothing is changing. Telling us to call the airlines and be ready to move isn’t us being helped, it’s us helping ourselves as we all have been until now.”

Jack Jones continued, “How do you expect people with leases, jobs, small babies, etc to move on short notice? Have you ever lived overseas? Do you appreciate the complexities of travelling home? Who is in charge?”

Finally, Annemaree Lloyd said, “What does be ready to leave at short notice mean? To avoid becoming stranded and homeless people need some clear guarantees about flights so they can give notice on leases and jobs – or does this advice ‘be prepared to leave at short notice’ mean that the HC is advising or advocating that for the thousands of us who need to get home, just walk out of contacts and commitments at short notice?”

Last week, Australian Aviation exclusively revealed how the industry body representing international airlines warned the government its members would have no choice but to stop flying to Australia if arrival caps aren’t increased.

In a significant hardening of its position, the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) said its members “cannot be expected” to “continue indefinitely with such flights on a commercial basis”.

“A target average of at least 100 passengers per arriving flight, while still difficult financially, is far better than 30 or less,” added BARA executive director Barry Abrams.

The organisation’s third statement in short succession came days after it argued the government should allow flexibility on quarantine for those who arrive from areas with fewer COVID-19 cases. It had previously said it would take its members six months to return all citizens stranded abroad if the current cap system wasn’t relaxed.

BARA also revealed that, during the first week of September, some 87 per cent of 30,000 seats on flights into Australia remained empty. It’s pushing for the cap to increase to a target average of 100 passengers a flight.

It has also pushed against flights landing at smaller airports.

Comments (23)

  • Nicholas


    People seem to have lost the idea of self sufficiency nowadays.

    This expectation that government will and should do everything in situations like this is embarrassing to us as a nation.

    • LSM


      This is a stupid comment. The government is actively preventing people from doing so by severely restricting the numbers of arrivals, and not expanding quarantine capacity. I bet you;re also one of those “small government” types. In which case you’d want to government to stop intervening and allow anyone who wants to come back to come back.

      People have no problem paying for flights, but there aren’t any. People have no problem paying for quarantine, but there is limited capacity.

      People aren’t depending on government, you retard, they want government to stop interfering.

  • Steve


    More than 500 Victorians died because returning overseas travellers overtaxed the Melbourne hotel quarantine system. The same covid virus then travelled to NSW with a Victoria truckie and more people died there. Yes the private guard contractors in Melbourne were partly to blame but so were those in quarantine who forced their way out of their rooms because they were bored.

  • One issue is that travellers have come to undervalue long haul international air travel.

  • mike


    very poor efforts by all oz govts. Open the borders & get rid of all restrictions. Qld election is end of next month & many will express their disapproval of qld govt poor efforts.

  • Gary


    Once again poor reporting. Commonwealth countries do not have Embassies they have High Commissions.

    • Adam Thorn


      What are technically called High Commissions are colloquially known as embassies, a distinction I have made clear in the article.

  • stuart lawrence


    qantas should fly these people home

  • Dave


    Gary is perfectly correct and Adam’s blunder (which, contrary to his claim he did not clarify) was to mention the word ‘embassy’ in the article about London and the UK at all. High Commissions (note the capitals which are also used for the High Commissioner) are not ‘colloquially’ known as ‘Embassies’, that’s a load of codswallop! Furthermore, they are not ‘technically’ known as High Commissions, it is the legal title under our law. If caught out, be upfront and honest, credibility is then retained!

    • Adam Thorn


      That’s your opinion but I disagree. A fundamental job of a journalist is to speak in plain English, in words everyone can understand. People are not “time poor”, they’re busy. The “International Freight Assistance Mechanism” to help cargo is, where I’m from, a new government initiative etc etc

      It’s for this reason, I, and many journalists will simplify things early on in an article, before fleshing things out with exact terminology, later down. Which is exactly what I did in this case. In just the second line, I referred to it as the high commission. In terms of whether this should be capped, well that’s a stylistic decision of which many different publications will have different rules.

      Thanks for you comment,


  • Rebecca


    The crux of this issue is NOT what the Goverment isn’t doing to help, but what it HAS DONE to hinder people.
    Comments above such as people should be self sufficient etc are very ignorant.
    The government is actively stopping people from returning home. This if very un-Australian.

  • G-Man505


    Nicholas… This isn’t an issue of self sufficiency as you have incorrectly pointed out. This isn’t people asking for handouts or money or free flights or being any less self sufficient.

    This is people asking the government to review the ridiculously restrictive, and poorly implemented quarantine caps which they, the government, has imposed. There is nothing the stranded travellers can do to be any more self sufficient… The only people who can do anything to fix it is the politicians who imposed it.

    Likewise Steve… You have missed the point entirely. This isn’t about quarantine. The travellers aren’t asking for quarantine (which they pay for) restrictions to be lifted or to increase any risk to other Australians. They are simply asking for the caps to be lifted so they can go into quarantine.

    You have both demonstrated a lack of understanding of the issue at hand here.

  • johnsalat


    Who cares what they are called embassies or high commissions. That was not the story !

  • Lauren


    Love how people so quick to criticise when they are safe in Australia. Australian citizens have a right to get back into their country (it says in our passports). What happened in Victoria was not caused by people still overseas so why are you blaming them?! NSW has done a great job and the other states should follow its lead – Australians must be allowed back (there is no debate about that!) but the question is what is the sensible way to do this and it’s definitely not a rule which allows only 30 people on a plane!

    And Nicholas- expats are “self sufficient” but the government is imposing an impossible travel cap. No one can be sufficient with a cap like that!

  • As I write this now I’m serving a 14 day quarantine order after flying into Singapore after a trip to the US. Never have I been so pleased NOT to be based in Australia. The caps for Aussies returning home imposed by the Morrison government are irrational, unreasonable & damaging. As an expat Aussie, I’m embarrassed & angry by how Australia is failing to care for my fellow citizens abroad. This isn’t good leadership, it’s irrational and is not only creating needless suffering now, but immense economic damage for years to come. Come on PM, more leadership please.

  • Nick Read


    It’s the High Commission. It’s not colloquially known as an embassy – because it isn’t an embassy, it’s a High Commission. Every Australian in the UK I know has referred to it as the High Commission or Australia House. I’ve never heard it referred to as the Australian Embassy.

  • Bob


    Whilst I’m sorry for those stuck overseas it still remains the responsibility of the traveller to remain safe
    and keep track of what is going on around the the world. Yes we canceled our trip to Italy and Greece in
    late February because the COVID was developing and getting worse each day
    As an ex airline industry worker I felt the world airlines would shut down and give you nothing This
    convinced us that it was dangerous leaving Australia. You can’t blame the federal government for their
    reactoon to lose the borders and set up the two week quarantine to reduce the chance of COVID spreading
    Every day we hear of infected return travellers going into quarantine. Unfortunately some of those who
    Returned to Victoria are responsible for spreading the virus because of their selfish attitude whilst being
    held in the hotels. This has come to light during to the enquiry into the hotel enquiry.
    The one way we the traveling public with the cancelations of our booking lack of refund of fares and the
    charging exorbitant tickets is to not travel with those airlines

  • John


    Paying for your own detention was very unpopular when they first introduced it in early July, now everyone just wants to return n they’re offering to pay for the hotel quarantine plus an ankle monitor. That’s what abit of pressure does when big government flex their muscles. The overreaction to the flu itself is a hoax as big as 9/11, they’ve demonstrated once again how fear is used as an effective tool in controlling the Masses. Since the undeniable power of the foolish majority is already in play we can simply ask they lift the caps so we can return to our authoritarian state.

  • Peter


    Wrong the people are resposible for their problem.. The govt is not a honey pot. Look what happened with QF crews who heped. We do not want more cases arriving . Only seems the QLD premier cares.

  • Rob


    Early on the Federal Government put returning travellers into quarantine in the Darwin “refugee” centre – not hotels!
    The Darwin centre is still available as is the facility on Christmas Island; refurbished at considerable cost to taxpayers
    but virtually unused ever since.
    Airlines could be chartered to fly virtually full planes of returning Aussies into Darwin or Christmas Island where passengers would pay for the basic cost of quarantine, then fly onto their home state. Such flights would not equate to Business Class fares, but be closer to Economy Class. At least with 300 people per flight it would more quickly reduce the
    number of expats needing to get home, plus it would provide certainty of travel dates & allow Aussies to make required
    arrangements in a timely way.

  • Alan


    This is a simple matter of logistics (and to date; a poorly handled one by government). It should not be a forum to raise your conspiracy theories (John). That is a dialogue you should be having with your Q-anon and other social media nutters.



    The Government controls ingress. The Government can increase ingress if they so decide. The number of returning Australians can be increased and, if planned correctly, can be handled in quarantine provide the planning and facilities are prepared properly. You don’t need hotels- open air access in motels or camps with protective spacing is better than confining people to rooms with shared central heating and air conditioning. Fly them into Darwin or any defence force base and allow people to quarantine in the open air if they wish, so long as they are separated from each other and the communities.

  • John


    1. People blaming those overseas don’t get it. We all have commitments, such as families, contracts and the like. Some of the people trying to return are military families who have no control at all.
    2. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen a complete constriction in arrivals. Many would have accepted quarantine requirements, but wouldn’t have anticipated airlines being allowed only 30 people/flight in some cases.
    3. I don’t understand the logistics constraints. I wish that people would stop being selfish when in quarantine and just accept their lot, instead of being clowns
    4. The idea that people overseas aren’t self-sufficient is laughable noting most of them have weathered this crisis so far. Airfares are hideously more expensive than usual ($10k/per for Premium Economy, instead of $1500) and still don’t guarantee a return, and trying to live with children in expensive day-to-day accommodation because the airlines and governments aren’t working together is a failure of government, not the people.
    5. I would happily stay on Christmas Island for the opportunity to have access to fresh air and a laundry for quarantine.

    Also, agree that those sharing conspiracy theories should keep them to themselves. I live in USA, this is far worse than the flu.

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