Australia's travel ban is one of the most extreme. There are only 6 reasons you can leave.

Since March 25, Australian citizens have been banned from leaving the country as part of the extreme measures taken to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.  

For Australians wanting to leave the country, they must have a 'compelling reason' in their request for a travel exemption from the Australian Border Force (ABF).

Five months on from the start of the ban, and over 100,000 requests later, about one third of applications for exemptions have been approved, with thousands of others rejected.

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For many Australians, being confined to the country's borders has brought extreme hardship, with several stories circulating of the people behind the statistics who are unable to leave despite their painful circumstances.

There is Kristian Stekic, for example, who explained to the ABC that he has applied to leave three times on compassionate grounds. He has been separated from his family in Europe, including his daughter who underwent surgery, since May and has no idea when he will next see them. 

His story is one of the thousands of Australians who describe feeling trapped. One woman explained to the Sydney Morning Herald that the restrictions "makes me feel like I am living in a prison... it's a prison island."

 According to the ABF, there are only six reasons residents can leave the country. They are: 

  • Your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid 
  • Your travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries)
  • You are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • You are travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business
  • You are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds 
  • Your travel is in the national interest.

These rules don't apply to you if: 

  • You're an ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia
  • An airline, maritime crew or associated safety worker
  • A New Zealand citizen holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa
  • Engaged in the day-to-day conduct of outbound freight
  • Associated with essential work at Australian offshore facilities
  • Travelling on official government business, including members of the Australian Defence Force

For all citizens applying for the travel exemption, the ABF asks for extensive documentation to support claims, including marriage certificate, proof of relationship, doctor certificates, proof of valid visa and more, depending on the respective circumstance. 


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Failure to adhere with the ban will be considered a criminal offence, according to the legislation, and is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a $63,000 fine, or both.

The travel restrictions are among the most extreme in the world. It is due to end on October 24, though is expected to be extended. In July, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia's economic forecasts were based on the assumption that international travel would likely resume on January 1, 2021, with a mandatory quarantine period in place. 

So, how do our restrictions compare to other countries?

Australia's complete travel ban has proved rare for other democracies. 

For example, in New Zealand, Canada and Britain, residents have been strongly advised to not travel overseas unless for essential reasons, but there is no ban in place. They do, however, have a mandatory quarantine period for returning travellers. 

In America, residents can also leave the country, with the Trump administration revoking their 'do no travel' COVID-19 warnings for around 20 locations in August. The places they can travel include The Bahamas, Barbados and Brazil. 

According to The Conversation, the other countries that have imposed a similar total-ban to Australia include Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Uzbekistan.

Do you have a story about being stuck in Australia? Let us know in the comments section below, or email the author of this article. 

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