Australia will resume repatriation flights for some citizens in India after a controversial ban on arrivals from the country ends on 15 May.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced criticism for failing to help Australian citizens trapped in the Covid-ravaged nation.
The ban sparked further anger after the government said Australians seeking to fly home could face jail or fines. Morrison later played down his threat.
On Friday, he said they would begin by bringing back “vulnerable” citizens.
About 900 Australians are registered with the government in this group. More than 9,000 Australians are in India in total.
Morrison said he expects the travel ban to end on 15 May. However, his government will wait until next week to make a decision on whether to restart commercial flights from India, which is how most stranded Australians will be able to get home.
Even then, there are fears that people will find it difficult to secure a seat on a flight, or afford the costly fares.
The India restrictions, which began on 27 April, led to the cancelation of two official evacuation flights that week. The ban’s wider impact has also been heavily criticised.
Morrison said the government was planning three repatriation flights in the second half of May, which would bring back Australians who have registered as “vulnerable”.
While Australians have been largely supportive of the government
S strict border policies over the past year, the India travel ban has sparked significant outcry.