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Australians stuck overseas during the pandemic have been turning down seats on repatriation flights home despite thousands being desperate to get back, the Senate’s COVID-19 committee has been told.

More than 36,000 Australians have told the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade they want to come home, and the number considered “vulnerable” has risen to 8000.

But some Australians have turned down seats on repatriation flights citing a variety of reasons, the committee heard on Thursday.

In one case, it took 1800 calls and emails from Australian officials to fill 175 seats on a specially organised flight, according to the Courier Mail.

The committee heard not enough notice, work obligations and health were some of the reasons Australians have had to turn down the offer.

In some cases, Aussies said they had contracted COVID-19 and were therefore unable to fly.

In September, the Senate committee heard from a NSW woman stranded in the UK since April with her husband and five children, who said they were offered spots on a repatriation flight but couldn’t afford the enormous cost of seats.

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“We were offered repatriation flights home in June. These were offered to us at a cost of $10,000 each – you can imagine the seven of us, that would have been $70,000 for a flight in June,” the woman told the hearing.

She said the family decided to wait until August to fly with the original tickets they’d already purchased for a commercial flight home, but their flight was cancelled two days before departure, due to a tightening of the Federal Government’s cap on overseas arrivals.

Stranded Australians told yesterday’s hearing they felt “abandoned and betrayed” by the Federal Government as they faced the enormous cost of living expenses and cost of flights, the prospect of losing work, as well as anguish over being separated from loved ones, while unable to return to Australia.

Dave and Kate Jeffries told how they were still stranded in Canada after travelling there from Perth with their young son in February to see Mr Jeffries’ cancer-stricken mum.

The family have since endured several failed attempts to get home, including flights being cancelled within 24 hours of departure.

In the meantime they’re faced with paying off their mortgage in Australia while juggling rent payments and living expenses in Canada.

Ms Jeffries faces losing her job in February if she doesn’t get back by then.

“Living with the constant uncertainty of not knowing how or when we will be able to return home is exhausting,” Mr Jeffries told the committee on Thursday.

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“We’re simultaneously always leaving and never leaving.

“We feel abandoned and betrayed by the current policies of the Australian Government … (and) we’re growing increasingly angry at its unwillingness to implement safe alternatives that would allow us to return home.

“Australia remains the only country in the world with…

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Read More: Why Australians stranded overseas are turning down flights home

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