Australia has made it even harder to leave the country during the coronavirus pandemic for citizens and permanent residents who usually live overseas.
The federal government has quietly tightened pandemic border rules with people who live in other countries now needing approval to return home.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the move was designed to reduce the number of Australians joining the backlog of people stranded abroad.
“It’s been very difficult in terms of repatriating people into Australia. We have limited availability,” he told Sky News on Friday.
“One of the tools quite rightly applied to make sure that we manage that is to keep a lid where possible on the number of people exiting the country in the first place.
“So many of those exiting do seek to come back in a relatively short order.”
There are concerns people who come to Australia for quick visits to see dying loved ones may face hurdles in returning to the countries they live in.
Senator Birmingham argued the exemption for overseas residents from needing permission was not designed to enable frequent travel in and out of Australia.
He said there were too many people leaving the country for short periods before adding themselves to the cohort keen to return.
More than 38,000 Australians stranded overseas have registered to come home with 4569 considered vulnerable.
Federal and state governments agreed to halve inbound passenger caps out of concern about the Delta variant of coronavirus.