‘Inhumane’ state lashed over border
A global human rights group has slammed the Western Australian Government over its strict border restrictions, saying it is inflicting "trauma" on everyday Australians.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), which generally focuses on the abuses suffered by people in developing countries plagued by corruption and war, took aim at state's government, saying it should make more exceptions for compassionate cases and prioritise family reunions.
They spoke to 17 applicants who said police denied their request to enter Western Australia. Some reported being denied multiple times.
One of them was a father in Queensland who has been separated from his three young children for 10 months now, and who has been refused entry twice.
"My little three-year-old cries sometimes and the other two (children) are always asking me when I will go back. Being able to talk to someone or get help is near impossible," he told them.
HRW said the WA Government should also provide greater transparency about the approval process and provide clearer explanations to people who have been refused permission to return to their home state.
"Governments can restrict people's movement for compelling public health purposes, but any restrictions on these rights should be strictly necessary and proportionate," said Sophie McNeill, Australia researcher for HRW.
"The process in Western Australia is opaque, confusing and arbitrary. Western Australians who want to return home for compassionate family reasons and who are willing to abide by quarantine restrictions should not be blocked from doing so."
They said many of the compassionate cases do not meet the Government's narrow criteria, or even when they do, some have been rejected several times.
"Western Australia police continue to deny requests even though applicants are willing to comply with quarantine conditions," Ms McNeill said.
"Other regions in the country have successfully cut (coronavirus) transmission without adopting such harsh restrictions, showing that Western Australia's tactics are neither necessary nor proportionate."
WA Premier Mark McGowan is the only Premier in the country who has refused to provide a road map for reopening his state, with the rest of the country's leaders agreeing to a Christmas deadline. Stranded Western Australians now fear they could miss out on Christmas reunions.
Here are some of the other examples of hardship highlighted by HRW, in the report:
• A father from Western Australia who was temporarily living in Queensland for work, whose application has been rejected twice. He has not seen his children (2, 6, and 8) who live in Perth with his ex-wife for 10 months.
• A father-of-three from Western Australia who had been living and working in NSW when the pandemic began, and all his work opportunities in the eastern states dried up. He has had his application to move home to Perth rejected four times, despite his three children living there.
• A young couple living in Melbourne, one whose mother in Perth has multiple sclerosis and the other whose mother in Perth is recovering from cancer. Their application to relocate back to Perth has been rejected twice.
• A mother working temporarily in Victoria, separated from her teenage daughter in Perth who is suffering severe mental health issues. The mother's application has been rejected twice.
• A new young mother from West Australia who has been living in Melbourne for three years who is attempting to relocate back to Perth to be near her family support network. She had her application rejected twice.
• A young teacher from Western Australia who has lived in New South Wales for three years. Police have rejected her application to move back to Western Australia three times. She is suffering undue mental hardship being separated from family and is desperate to return home.
• A retired couple stuck at a caravan park in Darwin who have been rejected twice from returning back to their home in Western Australia.
• A young woman living in Melbourne attempting to visit her father in Western Australia who had a stroke last year and broke his spine in March. She was refused entry four times before she was finally successful.
WA's State Shadow Health Minister Zak Kirkup called on Mr McGowan to "show some compassion".
"Allow Western Australians stranded over east to get home and be reunited with their families," he said.
Originally published as 'Inhumane' state lashed over border