In an opinion piece shared by The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Rob Colligan shares his own experience of being abandoned by his home country and stuck in Singapore.
Mr Colligan explains that back in March, when almost every country was feeling the early effects of the coronavirus, the Australian government had told him – and thousands of other Australians for that matter – not to leave Singapore to go back home. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade explained that if they had jobs and a place to live in Singapore, then it would be better for them to stay where they were.
He shares that going home to Australia at that time would have meant no job and no home, and he and the other 100,000 Australian ex-pats that could have headed back to their homeland would have just become financial burdens to the country, possibly costing them close to AUD$3 billion.
Mr Colligan owned his own business, which handled taking motorcyclists to events like the MotoGP at Philip Island and the Malaysian MotoGP. He also said that he was about to expand his work to handle Thailand MotoGP, Tibet and Morocco. But because of the pandemic, his business is now gone.
Although he already knows that he will look for opportunities in domestic tourism in the future, given that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) claims that global travel won’t make a comeback until 2024, it’s still quite a long way off before that time comes.
His wife on the other hand actually works in corporate travel, which is how they made it to Singapore in the first place when she received a promotion at her job. But despite all her hard work, much of their savings will eventually go back to paying taxes in Australia, leaving them with a possibility of having nothing left after paying their dues.
Due to all the uncertainty surrounding their current situation, he and his wife decided that it would be best to just go back home. They managed to book a flight for September 2 from Singapore to Melbourne, deciding to book despite all the stories of cancelled flights. On August 8, after hearing that Melbourne decided to close their borders to incoming international flights, they decided to call the airline to check if they could still fly. They were told that their flight was still happening, only to find out just a short time later that this was not going to be the case.
As Mr Colligan explained that they had their economy flight to Melbourne cancelled first, then their economy to Sydney flight was cancelled as well. They ended up paying premium economy for a Sydney flight, which on August 11, they decided to upgrade to business class to make sure they had seats. Once again, they were reassured that they would get on their flight when they received an email that their flight was on schedule.
Much to their chagrin, after finding out that the flight was on, they were in disbelief when they both received text and email messages at 3:30 a.m. the very next day, telling them that their booking was cancelled. Mr Colligan reiterates that it was their booking that was cancelled, not their flight, and the reason for this was due to “restrictions imposed by the Australian government.”
The next available flight is now scheduled for October 23.
To make matter worse, the lease on their condominium – which their landlord kindly allowed them to end 10 months early – already has a new couple scheduled to move in, and their things have already been packed to be sent home.
Mr Colligan shares that in a span of a few days, he and his wife “will be jobless and homeless in a foreign country with no support whatsoever, despite decades of paying taxes to my nation.”
He continues by saying, “I fell totally abandoned by my country and betrayed by its leaders.”
Needless to say, he was even angrier and incredibly disappointed to find out from the front page of the Sun-Herald no less that the Australian government wasn’t reaching their quota in getting their citizens back home. So if this was the case, why did he and his wife keep getting cancelled bookings then?
He also explained that he was so upset that he had a good mind to tell Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison straight to his face, “You abandoned me, and tens of thousands of Australians like me.”
He ended his article with, “We do not want a handout. We just want to get home. I suppose I could buy a boat,” signing his piece with “Rob Colligan is an Australian stuck in Singapore.”
And it makes us wonder, how many others are in his exact same situation and when, if at all, will they ever make it back home? /TISG