Families dream of reunion before Australia reopens

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Irish people living in the Netherlands – and Australians who have been stuck here since the pandemic affected world travel in March 2020 – are now hoping to return home for long-awaited weddings and family reunions.

They shared their reactions to the possibility of a phased introduction of international travel there starting next month.

It is a long awaited and slow reopening. Australian citizens will once again be able to travel abroad, only once the various states in which they live have achieved an 80% vaccination rate.

Making the announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “It is time to give life back to Australians. We have saved lives. We have saved livelihoods, but we must work together to ensure Australians can recover the lives they once had in this country. “

The criteria are very strict and travel for unvaccinated adults will always be discouraged.

Those who are fully vaccinated will be able to travel abroad and undergo a seven-day quarantine home on their return, but those who are not vaccinated will continue to face a 14-day hotel quarantine.

For some Australians living here in Ireland this offers a silver lining for future travel, but they say it still depends on a lot of things that happen first.

“I think there are only a few details on what this really means,” says Peter Michael White, who arrived with his family in Dublin in September 2019.

Six months later Ireland went into custody and they have now welcomed into their lives 15-month-old Alfred, known as Freddie, who has yet to meet his grandparents. Their six-year-old daughter misses her family at home.

“They’re talking about a home quarantine trial that I think hasn’t started yet, vaccination rates that they haven’t yet achieved and only potentially in some states,” he says.

“So I think it’s always going to be difficult to come home, depending on where you want to go.”

“My fingers are crossed,” he adds, “But we don’t expect to be home by Christmas, to be honest.”

Erika Hanton, mother of three from Western Australia, lives in Fethard-on-Sea in County Wexford.

“I think I’ll believe it when I’m there or maybe on a flight,” she said. “I don’t think Australia is yet able to welcome international travelers with open arms.

“There’s going to be a tremendous amount of resentment out there.

“States that are completely stranded, people who cannot make it to weddings or funerals and who are going to open the borders so-called to international travelers? It just doesn’t make sense.”

Erika has lived in Ireland for 16 years and it has been four years since she was able to return home to Australia.

“We were supposed to come back in 2020 but unfortunately the way things turned out it was not possible.”

Erika Hanton from Western Australia with her family in County Wexford

She has created a private Facebook group for Australian moms living in Ireland, where they support each other.

“It’s a small, collective place for Moms who are Australian expats and their families, creating a community where we can feel a little more connected, because right now we all feel incredibly isolated.”

She says her biggest fear would be investing a huge amount of money and time trying to get home without success.

“You can book a flight, but that doesn’t mean Australia will still be open when you leave. They can change your mind and create more quarantine restrictions that prevent you from entering the country and then you’re caught. in that limbo. “

Ronan O’Donnabhain is a doctor from Ballincollig in County Cork who has worked in Australia for a decade. He has dual citizenship and is looking forward to the chance to finally bring his two-month-old daughter Maeve to Ireland.

“We are very excited and her two year old sister will be going back for the first time in a year and a half. Clara will be absolutely delighted with the 24 hour flight!” he’s laughing.

Ronan O’Donnabhain with his baby girl Maeve

He says the wait has become more and more difficult for him. “Once they close the borders for international travel, you’re kind of on a mental clock,” he says. “It occurs to you, ‘When am I going to come home next time? What events could happen at home?’”

He says his Australian wife Emma has noticed that he has been getting more homesick over the past six months: “As soon as they allow us to travel you will see me digging a burrow for the airport”, he said.

He believes the new travel rules could make it harder for Irish people with shorter-term visas to return to Australia, if they choose to travel in the coming months.

“The Australian government is extremely nervous about the number of people returning to the country, so it has restricted travel of all categories,” he said.

Darren Ryan, a construction worker and permanent Australian resident, also lives in Melbourne.

He is eagerly awaiting the end of the phased closures there and hopes to return home to his hometown of Galway to marry his Australian fiancee, Jessica, next summer.

Darren Ryan from Galway with Australian fiancee Jessica Robson

He is optimistic that the gradual easing of travel restrictions may now work in their favor.

“I hope, I hope that everything will come true,” he said. “Lucky enough, our wedding has been booked for two and a half years to have it in Galway in July 2022.

“Everyone was saying we should have it in 2021 when we booked, and we said, ‘No, no, we’re going to give it an extra year just for everyone to be there,’ and it’s amazing now that is going to materialize. “

The man from Tuam will get married in Athens and looks forward to a big family reunion after a three-year absence.

“We will see how we are, I think it will work – I hope!”


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