‘You abandoned me,’ expat stranded in Singapore tells Australian gov’t

At left, Rob Colligan. The Australian passport on the right. Photos: Rob Colligan/Facebook, Museums Victoria
At left, Rob Colligan. The Australian passport on the right. Photos: Rob Colligan/Facebook, Museums Victoria

Out of a job and soon to be homeless, an Australian man who has been unable to go home from Singapore since last month has lashed out at Canberra and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

After writing in an op-ed that Australia’s strict travel restrictions had left him “stranded, homeless and jobless,” Rob Colligan told Coconuts Singapore today that he had not heard anything from the government he accused of not caring for citizens like him stranded abroad. 

“Nothing from the Government. More media enquiries though… And no changes to our situation so far,” the 54-year-old Melbourne man said. 

Colligan and his wife have lived and worked in Singapore since 2017. After his motorcycle business went under, he said he decided to write the article after discovering other Australians sharing the same plight.

“I wrote it because I was horrified to discover that there are Australian families with small children who have been stuck for months around the world and the [Australian government] is doing nothing to help them. Our situation is bad, but that is horrific,” he said. 

Morrison announced in July that the country would reduce the number of Australians allowed to return by over half to 4,000 per week. While 357,000 citizens and permanent residents have returned to Australia, more than 18,000 Australians are still trying to get home. The whole state of Victoria remains on lockdown through Sept. 13.

Colligan’s flight was canceled twice before he was told Friday that he would get one in seven days. The very next morning, he said that his booking was canceled. 

“We both received an SMS and email telling us that our booking had been canceled. Not the flight, but our booking. The reason: restrictions imposed by the Australian government. The next available flight now is October 23,” Colligan wrote yesterday in The Age.

Back in March, the couple was advised by the Australian government to stay in Singapore as they both had a job and home. Now that the situation has changed, there is no help in sight for the couple.

“Let me be clear: the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised us, and thousands of Australian expats like us, that if we had a job and a home where we were, it was probably best for us to remain in place,” he wrote. In his opinion piece, the expat also said that the couple had been trying to fly back home after realizing that they would soon be out of jobs. 

“In a few days, we will be jobless and homeless in a foreign country with no support whatsoever, despite decades of paying taxes to my nation. I feel totally abandoned by my country and betrayed by its leaders,” he said. 

Both Colligan and his wife, who works in corporate travel, were affected after the business failed and the pandemic hit the travel industry. The couple said that they no longer have incomes and will be forced to move out of their condo once new tenants take over this week. The couple has already made plans to send their stuff back to Australia on Wednesday. 

“I am old-school. I won’t say in print what I wouldn’t say to someone’s face. I would say this to Scott Morrison’s face: ‘’You abandoned me, and tens of thousands of Australians like me,’” he added. 

Australia has recorded nearly 26,000 COVID-19 infections, including 73 new cases today, since the outbreak hit the country. Its death toll stands at 652. 

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