'Serious concerns': UN calls out Scott Morrison's controversial ban

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The UN Human Rights Committee has expressed 'serious concerns' over Australia's India travel ban as Covid plagues the South Asian country

The government has copped a torrent of criticism over the ban and threats of jail time and fines to people who travel to Australia if they have been in India within 14 days of their arrival date.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the ban, despite former Test cricketer Michael Slater saying the leader had "blood on his hands" over the decision and other high-profile figures slating him. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and UN Human Rights Committee spokesman Rupert Colville.
Scott Morrison's travel ban has been criticised by UN Human Rights Committee spokesman Rupert Colville. Source: AAP/Getty Images

UN Human Rights Committee spokesman Rupert Colville is the latest to hit out at the ban, saying the committee saw "few, if any" circumstances justifying it. 

"We have serious concerns about whether the biosecurity determination — and the severe penalties which can be imposed for its breach — meets Australia's human rights obligations," Mr Colville told 9News in a statement.

The committee also pointed to article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that states "no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country". 

A body of a person who died from Covid at a crematorium in New Delhi.
India has reported more than 300,000 cases a day for 12 consecutive days. Source: Getty Images

"The UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the ICCPR, has emphasised the narrow authority to refuse nationals' return, and considers that there are few, if any, circumstances in which deprivation of the right to enter one's own country could be reasonable."

Government downplays jail threat

The government is downplaying a threat to jail or fine people who dodge the flight pause, which is in place until at least May 15 because of India's coronavirus catastrophe.

"I respectfully disagree with the critics on this one," Mr Morrison told reporters in Mackay on Tuesday.

"But the buck stops here when it comes to these decisions. I am going to make decisions that I believe will protect Australia from a third wave."

The prime minister said the rapid escalation of cases arriving from India put enormous pressure on the quarantine regime, but denied it showed the system's weakness.

Mr Morrison has committed to continually reviewing the travel pause.

India recorded more than 300,000 new cases for a 12th straight day on Tuesday, but medical experts warn the real number could be up to 10 times higher.

With AAP

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