Sunday, April 18, 2021

Coronavirus lockdown leaves international tourists stranded in Australia

Coronavirus lockdown leaves international tourists stranded in Australia

Sonia Alvarez’s first trip overseas hasn’t gone to plan.

The 58-year-old nurse from Colombia travelled to Sydney with her daughter Camila Cardona and her son-in-law Ricardo Stoltze on March 16 for a three-week holiday.

But it has turned into a two-month-long stay after the borders in Colombia closed and their flights were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were here for a happy vacation, everything was organised but now it’s an anxious situation,” Ms Alvarez said.

The Colombian trio are not the only tourists stranded in Australia due to restricted international travel.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, there are more than 110,000 tourists in the country.

Many nations are in the process of repatriating their citizens but with air travel still heavily restricted and flight tickets often expensive, tourists remain in limbo about when they will be able to return home.

For Ms Cardona, the only flight available so far cost nearly $4,500 per person.

“It’s so expensive … It’s better for us to wait because if you change that money $4,000 to pesos it would be like 12 million pesos,” she said.

“We came here to have fun and now we are looking for help. It’s so strange for us.”

Addison Road Community Centre volunteers are helping stranded tourists with free food hampers.(ABC News: Lydia Feng)

Members of the Colombian community in Sydney are working with local charities such as the Addison Road Community Centre Organisation (ARCCO) in Marrickville to support them and other stranded tourists by providing free groceries.

“At a time like this — an unprecedented health crisis — we don’t make a distinction between a citizen or a non-citizen, everybody is in need,” ARCCO chief executive Rosanna Barbero said.

Tourists from Sri Lanka were also struggling to find a way back home.

Meemarage Perera flew to Sydney from Colombo on March 10 to visit her daughter for a few weeks but her return flight was cancelled soon after.

The 80-year-old is worried about her health and is desperate to return home, where she has easier access to medication for her high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis.

“Because of my sickness and my age and my loneliness here I should get back as soon as possible,” said Mrs Perera.

“When you don’t know when you are going, you feel really miserable, I can’t sleep at night.”

two women at a kitchen counter
Meemarage Perera flew to Sydney in March to visit her daughter Deepani Pieris.(ABC News: Lydia Feng)

With the assistance of the Sri Lanka Association of NSW, Mrs Perera has written to the High Commissioner in Canberra calling for urgent action so she can return home soon.

For Mrs Perera, a ticket home can’t come soon enough.

“I can’t imagine myself being stuck in Australia for many more months.”

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