Ms Layton and her family moved to Bali a decade ago. When the pandemic began, they figured they could adapt and make do. They shifted operations at their shop and café to takeaway and prepared to ride it out.
Like many expats, they were mindful that locals depended on them for their livelihoods. When tourism on the island collapsed, all jobs in the industry disappeared so the community banded together, distributing food and other support.
But the pivot to café deliveries for quickly became uneconomical and as the months wore on, Mr Layton’s family depleted their savings. This year they set about moving back to Australia.
“I was offered a job in Perth in March but that month fares spiked as high as $10,000. To transport myself and my two children and pay for quarantine would have cost almost as much as I would have earned.” Ms Layton said.
The employer came back again recently with another opportunity. In the interim though, Indonesia’s flag carrier Garuda drastically cut back on flights to Australia. In recent weeks Singapore has also barred transit passengers from Indonesia, axing most international connections.
So the family joined with others becoming increasingly desperate to find a way out of Indonesia. At least two hundred are involved. The group chartered a flight from Bali to Perth, but the plan was flattened by the caps on international arrivals to Australia. These have reduced since the recent delta outbreaks forced millions into lockdown.
Shortly before the plane was due to take off a week ago, the McGowan government in Western Australia informed the operator Indojet Charter that only 25 passengers would be allowed to enter Australia, half the total previously agreed.
That sent the cost for the flight from $US2000 ($2700) per passenger to more than $US5000 ($6800), with quarantine costs on top of that.
Ms Layton and her partner simply could not afford to book the family onto a recheduled flight. It’s understood the charter operator is negotiating with other capital cities.
The Australian government has helped more than 22,000 citiziens and residents return from overseas since the pandemic began.
The largest number assisted by repatriation flights are the 5600 who have returned from India. Government-organised flights have left from more than 30 countries, but to date none from Indonesia. In the May budget the government committed funding for another 100 repatriation flights.
Access to vaccination is another problem for many Australians, Ms Layton said.
The French government is offering to vaccinate its nationals in Indonesia through the international SOS service. The Australian government’s policy is to only vaccinate people in Australia, even in nations where Australians are finding it difficult to access national schemes. This is the case for many in Thailand and some are finding it difficult in Indonesia as well.