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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 1 June, 2020
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Irish stranded in Australia: 'The airports are full of Irish people; I was quoted €9,000 for a flight home'

Very few flights are leaving Australia after it announced non-essential services would close.

Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

THOUSANDS OF IRISH citizens are stranded in Australia and New Zealand after the country imposed a lockdown yesterday that closed most public spaces.

A number of Irish citizens have been left stuck in the country they were visiting after airlines grounded flights and countries announced unprecedented border closures.

In Peru, a strict lockdown closing all land, air and sea borders was announced with very little notice, leaving around 100 Irish citizens stranded; the Irish government is now chartering a plane over to Lima, Peru to collect them and bring them home.

The Irish Embassy in Chile, which is the embassy for Irish citizens in Peru, said today that the date of the flight “will be dependent on the relevant permissions from the Peruvian authorities”.

John McMenamin from Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan has been in Australia for 15 months. Yesterday, Australia announced a shutdown of non-essential services, which means closing cafés, gyms, and bars, and libraries – places where many young Irish people who are living in Australia work. 

We’re basically trapped here, there’s nothing leaving Sydney. We literally cannot go anywhere. We’re in limbo – we could be stuck here for months.

The Irish consulate in Sydney said yesterday that it was responding to a “large volume of inquiries” to the consulate. 

“Nobody understands the severity of this. The airports are full of Irish people: they get to the desk and are told the flight is cancelled, after paying $5,000 for a flight. Flights have been going at $16,000.”

He tried to book a flight home at the weekend, and said that Qatar Airways quoted him AUD$9,536 to fly home on Sunday. This compares with a one-way ticket price of between AUD$700-$800; John got return flights home at Christmas for AUD$1,700.

We have absolutely no chance of getting home, but they’re still advertising flights and taking money off us for flights.

He says friends of his have paid AUD$2,500 on flights home, only to be told the flight won’t be going ahead, and that they can’t get their money back but instead would be given a credit voucher.

“That’s how stranded we are. Some people are out here a month, maybe five or six weeks, you have to get an apartment setup, maybe not a job yet, they’ve been eating into their savings and now there’s no chance of getting the job, and no money. Nowhere to stay.

“It’s very very scary times here. Very very scary.” 

He says he’s lucky, as he’s one of the few people who now have a job and has friend who can support him, but adds that there are “hundreds of Irish people here who have no job, no money, and nowhere to stay”.

The Australian government don’t want to know anything about us,  because they’re gonna look after their own, which is fair enough.  You know they don’t really care what backpackers.

“We expect that your own country, your own government would look after you. And here we are, we have no correspondence.”

John says that a friend of his in Sydney hasn’t stopped crying for two days because she can’t get home. 

“There’s a lot of young Irish people here as well, 21 or 22, who cannot get home, and it’s very very worrying because we don’t know when we can get home.”

An Irish couple in New Zealand were about to fly home when one of them was notified that they came in contact with a confirmed case. So instead of flying home, they self isolated, and missed their flights. The test came back negative yesterday.

“However, by taking the proper precautions and self-isolating while we waited for the result, now we are stuck. No flights are available despite extensive and exhaustive searches.” 

New Zealand is now to go into full lockdown, with travel severely limited, and little job prospects for those left behind.

There have been 1,ooo signatures to a petition asking the Irish government to repatriate Irish people in New Zealand who have no other means to get home.

If you’re stranded in Australia, or another country, and are trying to get back home to Ireland, you can share your story at: grainne@thejournal.ie

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