“Young Irish backpackers in Queensland are getting turfed off farm jobs in favour of locals. I dealt with one case where a young lady was verbally abused and spat at in a rural town, called ‘a f***ing filthy foreigner!’”
Those are the words of Paddy Farrelly, coordinator of Queensland’s Irish support group IASAQ, who is used to dealing with difficult cases coming through the door of their office in Brisbane, but with the onset of Covid-19 and the economic crisis, the seriousness and frequency of incidents has risen to a whole new level.
“We are currently dealing with domestic violence and alcohol-abuse cases, as well as people of all ages who find themselves stranded here with no support network or resources.”
With the massive rise in the cost of airline tickets, many people haven’t been able to afford to fly home to Ireland.
“Some backpackers bought tickets to go home at greatly elevated prices when the pandemic first began, only for those flights to be cancelled at short notice and no refunds given. That four to seven thousand dollars they paid for tickets would have kept a roof over their head and food in their belly for quite a long while.
“It’s easy for people to say they should have gone home when they had the chance but all flights stopped quite quickly once the social measures began to take effect. Many of them were in far north Queensland or way out west, and wouldn’t have been able to get to a last-minute available seat on an aircraft in Brisbane with just hours of notice given.”
Young people have to rely on local charities and their families to bail them out. Paddy says: “Some have families who can send them money to survive until they can get home, others are not so lucky as their families are being hit hard financially back in Ireland as well.”
And it’s not just the young Irish who are finding themselves stranded; it’s people of all ages.
Paddy explains: “Many people in their golden years have become stranded due to flight cancellations and not all of them can afford the figures being quoted by some airlines for a ticket home, in some cases people have been quoted more than $7,000 for a one-way ticket. Also, the older folks who are stranded are greatly concerned about the dangers of actually making the journey home, while the pandemic is still ongoing.
“A lot of people who are contacting us presently simply don’t qualify for any available assistance.”
In order to support those in need of their services during these extraordinary times, the Irish Australian Support Association of Queensland (IASAQ) is asking the community to donate to their Covid Appeal. You can contribute here and all donations over $2 are tax deductible.
You can watch IASAQ’s appeal video here.