Lifeline for Aussies stranded overseas

More Australians stranded overseas are expected to arrive home in coming weeks, Scott Morrison says.

The Prime Minister addressed the issue of repatriation flights while visiting Cairns on Thursday.

Mr Morrison said the government was in the “final stages” of boosting quarantine capabilities at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.

“There have been extensive preparations undertaken on that matter,” he said.

“We’ve been working now for some months as we’ve been getting more and more Australians home, particularly those in vulnerable situations.”

He added that about 750 vulnerable people were now home.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says New Zealanders will begin arriving in Australia from Friday without having to quarantine in a hotel. Picture: Brendan RadkeSource:News Corp Australia

“I’m a bit disappointed at one level because … we were keen when we had those extra slots opened up for people to come back and quarantine that Cairns could have played a role in that.”

Mr Morrison said empty hotel rooms in the regional city could have been used for hotel quarantine but that was the decision of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

A federal government spokesman said more quarantine facility space became available because fewer domestic travellers needed to quarantine.

“The Morrison Government has been working with the NT Government to finalise arrangements to use Howard Springs for quarantine to enable more Australians to return from overseas,” he said.

The international arrivals cap was lifted in September from 4000 to 6000 a week to allow more Australians back into the country.

More than 26,000 Australians stuck overseas had registered their intent to come home with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese accused Mr Morrison of prioritising the return of overseas visitors before the Australians wanting to return.

“That should be the first priority,” Mr Albanese said.

“They are stuck overseas.”

He said some Australians had paid tens of thousands of dollars to book flights that had been cancelled, while others had newborn babies.

“It is an absolute disgrace that this government has done nothing about it and pretends someone else is responsible for our national borders and for our customs and for our quarantine,” Mr Albanese said.

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