'Desperate' Australians queue through the night for passports

·4-min read

Long queues outside passport offices in Australia remained on Thursday, however the new Labor government says it is working to fix the problem.

People on social media once again shared pictures of the long lines outside passport offices around Australia.

One person went to the Sydney office just after 6am on Thursday and everyone was lined up in the dark, with many sitting on the ground, rugged up in the cold.

Queues outside the Australian Passport Office in Sydney. Source: Facebook/Supplied
From 6am to 1pm, the line outside the Australian Passport Office in Sydney slowly moves. Source: Facebook/Supplied

One man who was hoping to secure his teenage daughter's passport today told Yahoo News Australia he applied for the renewal back on April 4.

He explained he got up at 5.30am to get to the Sydney Passport Office at 7am this morning, behind around 100 other people.

Hoping to fly to the UK on June 23, he was hopeful he would be walking out of the office today with his daughter's passport, however, he left empty-handed just before 1pm.

"I discovered they hadn't even started processing the application," he said, adding that when he applied he was told the wait would be six weeks.

Crowds 'resigned to waiting'

While the sheer number of people in line was chaotic, people were calm and photos supplied to Yahoo News Australia show some even bought camping chairs to sit on.

"Everyone was pretty patient ... but you know, just resigned to waiting," he said.

"There were a few people in tears near the end because they were flying in the next couple of days. It's really getting quite desperate."

One man lined up at 7am and didn't leave the Sydney Passport Office until just before 1pm. Source: Supplied
One man lined up at 7am and didn't leave the Sydney Passport Office until just before 1pm. Source: Supplied

One girl ahead of the man had woken up at 1am and driven to Sydney from Albury on the NSW-Victorian border to line up early in the morning.

"I think it's hanging around in the hope that she will get her passport today because she obviously can't come back again after a six-hour drive," he said.

People in line not waiting until 'last minute'

The lines at the passport office have made headlines and dominated discussion on social media for days.

However, some people have implied those waiting in the lines should have been more organised and put in their applications sooner.

Comments like that have been hit with resistance. Some pointed out that during the pandemic some people were tight on money and with the borders shut, renewing a passport perhaps wasn't at the top of their list.

Others noted people living in Australia went almost two years without knowing when they would be able to head overseas again.

The people lining up aren't there because they left their passport issues to the last minute, despite some allegations online. Source: Supplied
The people lining up aren't there because they left their passport issues to the last minute, despite some allegations online. Source: Supplied

The man who spoke to Yahoo News Australia said such criticisms were "total rubbish".

"On April 4, there were no warnings, no alerts anywhere saying that [this would happen] ... basically, we were told it would take six weeks," he said.

He added there were people in the line who had applied to renew a passport in March.

"So, it's not that it's not the case of people leaving it to the last minute — it's people having applied months ago and heard nothing, no update at all," he said.

"And then as their travel date approaches, they've taken the last resort, which is to queue up at four-five o'clock in the morning and hope for the best."

Labor announces plan to fix passport wait

Labor's new Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister, Tim Watts, told Sky News this morning that the delays with passports were "completely unacceptable" and this issue had been building for months and only came to a head recently.

"Unfortunately, this is the result of the previous government failing to plan for an entirely predictable surge in applications," Mr Watts said.

"Since we have gotten into office, we've gotten down to work in actually fixing this problem."

In the next two weeks, 70 new staff members will be working in call centres to address any queries people have about their passports and 250 people will be brought on to help with the processing of the backlog of applications.

Pre-pandemic, there were about 8000 passport applications a day, whereas on Tuesday alone over 16,000 people had applied for passports.

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