HAVING spent months stranded in Dubai after the government announced caps on the number of "expats" being allowed back in the country, Janelle Lindsay says more needs to be done to help get Australians home.
Janelle, and her daughter Victoria arrived back in Australia last week and are in quarantine in a Sydney hotel, her husband, Mark Hetherington remains stranded in Dubai, with no set date to return.
The family moved from Bathurst to Dubai in August last year for work, and Victoria, eight was enrolled in school there.
She said when COVID-19 became an issue back in Europe, the Australian government advice was if we were able and safe, to stay where we were.
"In our case, we had a house, jobs, schooling. It is a common misconception that people think 'why didn't you come home earlier'... the government advice was to stay put," she said.
"It eventually became a non-issue anyway as the airports in the UAE were shut for an extended period, so we couldn't leave even if we wanted to."
She said when COVID-19 hit the United Arab Emirates, the UAE government acted swiftly and we went into a hard lockdown by March.
"This meant that we were not allowed out of our houses for any reason, not to exercise, not to walk our dog. We had to get a police permit for every three days for two hours only to go to get groceries."
Ms Lindsay said she was made redundant, which also meant her visa changed from a working visa to a spousal visa. her husband's work also became increasingly tenuous.
"So we made the decision that when the school year was finished that Victoria and I should return to Australia, my husband stay until the work ran out.
"We packed up our house, as the lease was up, shipped our good and moved into an AirBNB until we were due to fly".
However corresponding to this time a cap was introduced to limit the numbers on Australian citizens returning to the country.
"This had a massive domino effect for Australians trying to return. People trying to return were getting flights cancelled, or getting bumped from one flight to a later flight. I know of one lady who had been bumped 13 times last count.
"We had booked our flights to Sydney in August, but of course we got bumped. We immediately rang Emirates to reschedule and were told there was nothing available until November.
"I asked if we could upgrade to business or first class, as I heard people were getting priority if they had a more expensive ticket. There were no business class tickets available, and a single first class ticket late September.
"We decided to not bother and took the November flights offered,"she said.
"This left us with no home, living out of suitcases, our AirBNB was up, so we were lucky that a British gentleman took pity on us and rented a room to the three of us and our dog.
"We then got notification our November flights had been cancelled. We called Emirates immediately and were told they are not rescheduling any seats because of the Australian government cap until after February 2021, seven months after our original flight.
"As you can imagine we felt abandoned by the government. I had been in contact with the Australian Embassy but they could to nothing to help.
"The airlines couldn't do anything as they could not breach the numbers cap set by the government, so we were utterly stranded."
She asked to be put on a wait list for flights to Sydney, and last week got a text late in the afternoon saying they had two seats on a flight later that night.
"We rushed home and packed our suitcases, had a quick dinner and went to the airport. It was a nervous wait as we weren't assured until we were checked in and luggage taken that we were on the plane. It was a rollercoaster of emotions.
"Relief that we had got the tickets, sadness that we were leaving my husband until who knows when," she said.
Now in quarantine, Ms Lindsay said she is just grateful to have secured the flight.
"I know that we are lucky, everyday I see on the Facebook groups for expats trying to get home and that flight after flight hundreds of people are getting bumped.
"One family was sleeping in Heathrow airport last week. Apparently, the Embassy staff directed her and her children to a homeless shelter.
" What are these people going to do?
"They have no home, no belongings other than their suitcases. It's just a farce and there is no assistance from the government to sort out these issues.
"The worst part is the double standards, and I think every Australian would agree that is it manifestly unfair that an Australian family is sleeping in Heathrow airport because they can't get home, but movie stars can get in.
"It's about priorities. The resources are there, imagine how hard hotels are doing at the moment because of lack of tourists, it makes sense that bring more Aussies home will help support jobs in the hotel industry," she said.