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AUSTRALIA LOCKS OUT ITS OWN CITIZENS OVER COVID FEARS
How would you like to spend five years in jail or pay a $51,000 fine for trying to enter your own country? That’s what 9,000 Australians in India are now facing if they attempt to come home during India’s horrific Covid outbreak.
The new border policy, announced under the country’s Biosecurity Act without public consultation, may have ramifications for what it means to be a citizen in a democracy. After all, a democratic government’s fundamental allegiance is to its own citizens. But if you can’t return home as a citizen, what can you do?
While many countries have placed restrictions on foreign arrivals during Covid, Kim Rubenstein, a citizenship law expert from the University of Canberra, told Global Translations that “no other democratic country has placed such extreme measures on its citizens” — most of whom are already banned from leaving the country.
The policy was announced without detailed justification at midnight Saturday and is already in force. The national Cabinet, which met on Friday, did not discuss the matter and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not faced reporters since the decision was made.
Critics say the government is abandoning its citizens and breaching its obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. By comparison, the United States is still allowing Americans and humanitarian workers to enter from India, though restrictions on others attempting to enter the U.S. from India will begin Tuesday.
Numbers game: The Australian government’s political calculation is that the 25 million Australians already at home will be grateful that their government is enacting tough regulations to keep them safe from India’s out-of-control Covid outbreak, and that the Australians stranded in India — ranging from dual citizens returning to India for family funerals, to high-profile sports stars playing in India’s Premier League cricket competition — are too small in number to create a political backlash.
Australia experienced an average of just three new Covid cases per day in April, almost all of them caught in the country’s strict hotel quarantine system, meaning there is no community transmission of the novel coronavirus in Australia. Local television reported that 47 cases of Covid from recently returned Australians in India were the cause for the emergency policy.
Tim Soutphommasane, a former head of the Australian Human Rights Commission, told Global Translations that the policy is discriminatory, but likely to be popular. “The Australian public has rewarded governments that have taken harsh measures in responding to Covid-19, as we’ve seen from the thumping return of numerous state governments during the past year,” Soutphommasane said. This includes the right-wing Tasmanian state government on Saturday and the left-wing West Australian government in March.
Second-class citizens: The policy leaves Australians in India holding second-class citizenship papers — and leaves India with the impression it has been singled out, despite a lower per capita infection and death rate than the United States, United Kingdom and many other majority-white countries at the peak of their Covid outbreaks.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee last month already slapped down Australia for its arrival caps policy limiting overseas arrivals to between 3,000 and 6,000 per week, leaving around 35,000 Australians stranded overseas despite registering with the government as wanting to return home.
HERMIT NATION — AUSTRALIA IS BEATING COVID, BUT LOSING NORMAL
Policy consultant Parnell Palme McGuinness says Australia is fully embracing “isolationist nationalism.” Australian state governments announce border closures with alarming regularity, sometimes catching domestic travelers unaware mid-flight. Contact tracing remains strict: All public shops and other venues require QR code registration to enter, despite the absence of community Covid transmission. Nationally, the federal government has banned nearly all departures from the country, and has no concrete plan to open back up.
No global elite here: The needs of people with international family or business connections are shoved to the bottom of the Australian political pile. Two of Australia’s three biggest export industries — international tourism and international university students — have been decimated by the yearlong lock-out.
Americans also pay a price: Australians and permanent residents of the country need to apply for an exemption to leave, except to travel to neighboring New Zealand. The policy traps at least 4.4 million foreign passport holders — including American citizens — and Morrison says he is in “no hurry” to change the system.
MEANWHILE IN EUROPE … The European Commission has proposed ending its yearlong ban on non-Europeans entering the bloc. National governments must still approve the plan, and the new condition of entry is vaccination.
GLOBAL RISKS AND TRENDS
INDIA — STATE FAILS ITS COVID TEST: If your Twitter feed is anything like mine, you’ve been seeing a constant stream of Indians sharing the health details — oxygen stats, blood pressure, etc. — of their relatives, begging for advice, equipment, or a hospital bed. That’s because in the absence of a strong and capable Indian government, whether you live or die largely depends on who’s in your phone book, writes Mihir Sharma. “Denialism about the scale of the problem is official policy. Ministers, bureaucrats and even government lawyers insist that there is no shortage of oxygen or hospital beds, although everyone can plainly see that there is.”
India’s starting position was poor: Delhi has only 5,000 usable ICU beds for its roughly 20 million citizens, but the handling has been abysmal. The government lacks the capacity to monitor even the basics about the virus in real time, and seemingly also the will. Whatever the blame and flaws attributable to Beijing’s handling of Covid, there is a clear competence contrast between China and India.
Reality check — There’s likely a million Covid cases a day in India. There’s no way to know the real number, we know only that the official statistics (400,000 cases a day and rising) are vast undercounts.
EUROPE — FOURTH WAVE WOULD DELIVER POPULIST SURGE: Europe has fallen into recession again, a marked contrast with the booming American economy. The EU economy shrank by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to data released Friday.
The bottom line: European government and mainstream political parties should be very nervous.
NEW ZEALAND — AN INDEPENDENT COURSE ON CHINA: With democratic allies starting to privately question if New Zealand was veering into an appeasement policy with Beijing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has directly criticized China’s human rights record and refusal to engage with other countries on it, in an Auckland speech.
Free from its previous need for coalition compromise, New Zealand’s Labour government had marked an independent foreign policy course in recent months. It refused to join other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, for example, in criticizing Beijing over Hong Kong interference and the origins of the Covid pandemic. Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta also defiantly set out her vision of the United States as a security and defense partner and China as a trading partner. New Zealand has a long tradition of bucking the foreign policy of major powers including the United States and France, when the country declared itself a nuclear-free zone in 1987.
MIDDLE EAST — CLUBHOUSE (AND FREE CONVERSATION) IS BOOMING: The audio app had a brief boom in China, before it was banned over the free discussion of normally censored topics. Thais have also used the app to push back against digital authoritarianism. Now it’s the Middle East’s turn.
Kim Ghattas explores here what Arab protesters have learned in the 10 years since the Arab Spring uprisings.
TECH — THE EPIC COURT BATTLE THAT MAY UPEND APPLE: Three days after the European Commission charged Apple with abusing its control of the App Store to harm rival music streaming services, Apple is about to face off in court against a video game company based in the town of Cary, North Carolina. Epic Games, the maker of the popular video game Fortnite, has captured the attention of regulators in Washington and Brussels with an antitrust lawsuit that could upend how app developers reach the world’s 1.5 billion iPhone or iPad users.
CLIMATE — BRAZILIAN AMAZON RELEASING MORE CARBON THAN IT ABSORBS: How’s that? A startling report published in Nature Climate Change concludes that from 2010 through 2019, Brazil’s Amazon basin gave off 2.7 billion tonnes more carbon dioxide than it absorbed, thanks to logging and burning.
INCLUSIVE RECOVERY SPOTLIGHT
JAMIE DIMON, MCDONALD’S AND WALMART PUSH TO HIRE EX-CONVICTS: More than 70 million Americans have criminal records of one kind of another, according to the Second Chance Business Coalition, co-chaired by Dimon. That’s a massive talent pool for businesses to tap as they embrace the idea of more diverse workforces.
It’s complicated: Dating back 50 years, employment programs for ex-offenders have had a very patchy track record in America, according to Department of Justice research.
BEAM HER UP: KAMALA HARRIS TO CHAIR NATIONAL SPACE COUNCIL
BIDEN STOCKS HIS WHITE HOUSE WITH IVY LEAGUERS: Joe Biden, who has bragged about going to a state school, has stocked his top White House staff with nearly twice as many Ivy League graduates as the early Trump White House, according to a POLITICO analysis. Forty-one percent of senior- or mid-level Biden White House staffers — or 82 people out of 201 aides analyzed — have Ivy League degrees.
IS BORIS JOHNSON’S FIANCÉE ‘CARRIE ANTOINETTE’ — OR A VICTIM OF SEXISM? What goes up must come down in the world of British media, and this week it’s the turn of Carrie Symonds, partner of scandal-ridden Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Over in Paris, Brigitte Macron is pitched as a real power in the Élysée, in a new biography.
AMERICAN OLYMPIC ATHLETES ARE SPLIT OVER PROTEST: A survey of several thousand Olympians found a majority oppose using the Games’ platform for political or social protest. Americans were more favorable to such expressions of opinion than the average athlete, but as with everything else in the country there are deep splits.
RETIRING FROM IMF: Alejandro Werner, Director of the Fund’s Western Hemisphere Department. Werner, who is from Mexico, will leave Aug. 31.
Thanks to editor Ben Pauker.
The world’s most extreme border policy – POLITICO – Politico