Teacher stuck in Spain blasts decision to snub citizens
BUMPED from her flight to Brisbane just 72 hours before she was due to leave Europe, Gold Coast teacher Emma Wood is one of thousands of Australians stranded overseas demanding limits on returning citizens be removed.
"Quite frankly it's a disgrace and a shame," said the 31-year-old.
Jobless and couchsurfing in Spain, the former Marymount College student said it made no sense for Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to continue to limit the number of international arrivals into the state to just 500 per week.
In July, the Federal Government introduced caps to limit arrivals into Australia to about 4000 a week. This figure was recently extended by national cabinet until October 24.
It's understood that while states and territories can voluntarily increase how many returned Australians they take into hotel quarantine, most are unlikely to do so.
Ms Wood said her flight home was booked for August 31, the day her lease expired, but Qatar dropped her from the manifest in accordance with the latest Australian Government restrictions. In the case of Brisbane this was 25 people and "I was not in that lucky group".
"The next available flight I could get is for October 26 to Sydney, but I was told there's no guarantee I'll get on the flight. I really just want to get home," she said.
"I feel incredibly let-down by the state and federal governments. I don't know of any other country which is not allowing its own citizens and residents back home. Quite frankly it's a disgrace and a shame.
"Most of us don't need financial help, all we need is for the cap to be removed or significantly raised so we can book seats and come home. Not only would this allow us to get on with our lives, it would also be beneficial to the hotels in Australia and the airlines themselves which are largely unoccupied.
"Also, the number of returned travellers that test positive for COVID-19 in Queensland are incredibly low."
Ms Wood said planes were arriving "practically empty in Australia" and airlines were bumping off economy seats in favour of people forking out thousands for business class seats.
She also took aim at responses from officials that blamed citizens stranded overseas for not coming home earlier, saying they were "unhelpful and dismissive".
After living abroad for 13 years and teaching English in Barcelona for the past four years, she had work and housing commitments to fulfil. Back in March the Spanish Government also advised only essential international travel was allowed.
"It's not just as easy to drop everything at a moment's notice. I felt it would have been irresponsible of me to leave one of the worst hot spots in Europe, potentially bringing the virus with me," she said.
"No one could imagine what was going to come next, confinement. The streets were empty save for the ambulances, whose relentless sirens became the soundtrack to our new, hidden lives."
Ms Wood said she planned to return to the Gold Coast to continue her studies following last year's bushfires after an extended family member in NSW lost their home.
"The fires made me realised that I wanted to be back, closer to home. But now I have no idea when I will actually make it back," she said.
Desperate for daughter's return, Sally Wood, of Elanora, said she'd been in contact with both state and federal governments with both assigning blame to one another.
"Why is there still a cap? Emma is just one of thousands of desperate Australians stuck overseas. With a flick of a pen the Premier could raise the cap from 500 to 5000 and allow Queenslanders to get back home," she said.
"I know some people have been bumped off flights five times, it's really a disgrace that governments are stopping their own citizens from returning home."
Ms Wood has thrown her support around a campaign to Remove the Cap, a movement started last Sunday to highlight the plight of Australian's stuck overseas.
A response has been sought from the Premier's office.
Originally published as Coast teacher stranded overseas after being bumped from flight