, ‘Frustration’ over no end to border closures, Nzuchi Times

‘Frustration’ over no end to border closures

, ‘Frustration’ over no end to border closures, Nzuchi Times

Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn give advice to a woman who hasn’t seen her family in two years due to the international border closures.

Question:

Is the international border closure in Australia legal? I’m a dual citizen of Ireland and Australia with most of my family back in Ireland. I haven’t seen them for almost two years and don’t know when I’ll see them again. I understood at the beginning of the pandemic why we needed to stay put but now I’m getting frustrated. Can I be kept in a country with no date to leave? I want to visit my family but my life is here so I’d need to be able to come back. What are my rights? – Catrin, WA.

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Answer:

There have been four failed legal challenges to the various covid border restrictions in Australia.

The most recent of these, decided by the full Federal Court, resulted in an unanimous rejection of the argument that the federal health minister has no power to impose a blanket rule stopping citizens from leaving the country.

The Biosecurity Act 2015 gives the health minister extra powers to prevent or control the spread of disease in Australia, and it’s this legislation that is being relied on to close Australia’s borders.

Even though you have dual citizenship Catrin, that alone will unlikely qualify for an exemption as you do not usually live in Ireland.

You will only be able to leave Australia for a country outside the “border-bubble” if you obtain an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs.

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There are strict criteria in order to be granted an exemption, and you must meet one of the following:

• your travel is as part of the response to the covid-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid

• your travel is for your business/employer

• you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia

• you are travelling outside Australia for a compelling reason for three months or longer

• you are travelling on compelling or compassionate grounds, or

• your travel is in the national interest.

In your situation, you may be able to apply for an exemption if you are travelling for a compelling reason for three months or longer, or you are travelling on compelling or compassionate grounds.

Compassionate and compelling reasons include, but are not limited to, needing to travel due to the death or critical illness of a close family member.

The exemption application can be made online and you need to make the application at least two weeks prior to your intended travel, but no more than three months before the travel.

You’ll need to provide supporting evidence for your application, which in your case should include things like:

• Your passports and evidence of citizenship

• Proof of your relationship with your parents, such as a birth certificate

• Proof of your parents failing health, if applicable, and the importance of your visit, such as letters from their doctor

• Information about any lack of alternate family support for your parents

• Evidence of when you intend to return to Australia, such as a return ticket

• A statutory declaration confirming the above

If you are not granted an exemption, you should not continue with your travel plans as you will not be permitted to board a flight from Australia.

If you are granted a travel exemption, you need to take evidence of that exemption decision to the airport when leaving Australia.

You should also find out if there are any restrictions on your ability to enter Ireland, including whether there is a self-isolation period.

When you return from Ireland there will be a 14-day quarantine period, likely at your own cost, in a designated facility in the state or territory you fly into.

There’s been a lot of debate about the necessity and legality of the travel bans.

The law says that any limits or bans of people’s movement are allowed as long as they are likely to be effective, appropriate and no more restrictive or intrusive than required in the circumstances.

There are also some international laws that govern freedom of movement within and out of a country, but these laws also say freedoms can be restricted to protect public health.

We wish you all the best with your request for an exemption so you can visit your family.

This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.

If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email [email protected]

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