Any Australian arriving in the country from India faces fines and up to five years in prison as of Monday. Canberra had previously banned all flights from the virus hotspot until the 15 May. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied racism allegations.
According to local media, this is the first time Australians have been criminalized for returning to their country.
There are approximately 9,000 Australians in India, 600 of whom are vulnerable.
The government stated that the steps, announced on Saturday, are based on medical advice and are intended to protect the community. The virus is spreading rapidly in India, with daily cases exceeding 300,000 for the past ten days.
Concerns have been posed by a rise in infection rates among Indian arrivals over the last two Members of the Indian-Australian community, which accounts for approximately 2.6 % of the population, have expressed outrage at the sudden ban.
Some people have told the BBC that they are being treated like criminals and second-class citizens because they want to escape risk.
Legal experts have also expressed concern that the temporary ban could be in violation of International law. This involves the right of people not to be unfairly denied entry into their home country, which is recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Australia is a signatory.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Government must demonstrate that these measures are not discriminatory and are the only appropriate way of dealing with the threat to public health.
The situation in India has also brought renewed attention to Australia’s quarantine system, which has seen over a dozen infection leaks since November.
The country has successfully implemented a 14-day quarantine policy for all foreign arrivals, which is mainly carried out in hotels.
However, the government warned that the surge in positive cases from India was threatening to overwhelm its quarantine system, which can only accommodate a maximum of 2% of contaminated arrivals.
The Australian Medical Association, the country’s leading medical organization, said the need to halt Indian arrivals was evidence of the quarantine system’s frailty.