Morrison Government accused of "cooking the books" to hide the number of Aussies still stranded overseas

Morrison Government accused of “cooking the books” to hide the number of Aussies still stranded overseas

Stranded Aussies are feeling neglected and “betrayed” amdist accusations of changed DFAT statuses to falsely insinuate their intent to not return home.

Several stranded Aussies came forward on Facebook last week expressing outrage and confusion that the status on their Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading (DFAT) account was changed from“I am seeking to return in the next 2 months” to “I am not seeking to return at this time” without their knowledge.

Now, the Morrison Government has been accused of simply trying to cheat its way around its Christmas promise to get Aussies home.

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Photograph: ABC News

The alleged shortcut tactics are presumably a result of the pressure and unreasonable expectations set by Morrison’s plans to boost the cap on arrivals to 6,000 citizens a week.

In September he mentioned to the 26,700 stranded at the time: “I would hope that we can get as many people home, if not all of them by Christmas”. 

The Senate Committee has now expressed that over 36,000 Australians have registered interest with the Department of Foreign Affairs, with 8,070 classed as vulnerable (without an explicit definition as to what “vulnerable” means).

Yet now, it seems people have been taken off the list in order to cover the fact that the queue has increased by 10,000 – suggesting that the government cares more about headlines than “actually helping people”, as put by Senator Penny Wong.

A DFAT spokeswoman has denied that any Australians have been taken off its lists, “unless they ask to be taken off, or have successfully returned to Australia”.  

Stranded Aussies stuck overseas are essentially denied entry into their own country. Many citizens have taken to the Facebook page Australians Stuck Around the World, where discussions around the changing of statuses without warranted reasoning reveals it has been frequently occurring.

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Image: Facebook. Australians Stuck Around the World

In an interview with the Guardian, stranded Australian Dave Jeffries said that airlines from Canada are targeting Australians by charging them flights that won’t run and delaying refunds.

“We are the only country in the world effectively denying their citizens the right to return to their country – it’s unacceptable and about as UnAustralian as it gets,” he described.

Although DFAT explains that registering does not guarantee a return to Australia, the aim of the registration is to allow the department to better understand who is trying to return home – of course, I’m not exactly sure how changing people’s status will help with that.

Senator Wong has accused the Morrison Government of cooking the books” and has urged others to simply “have a discussion with some of the stranded Australians”.  

Scott Morrison is yet to make a comment, and even during Parliamentary Question Time earlier today, the only recognition he made of the stranded Aussies was in regards to the economic impact.