Offaly man stranded in Australia as airline ticket prices soar
An Offaly man has set up a Facebook group to connect thousands of Irish people stranded in Australia as a result of the current coronavirus crisis.
Birr man Colm Cahill travelled to Australia in October last year but given the current global situation, he and his partner have been trying to get flights back to Ireland.
"The situation for Irish visa holders in Australia has gotten extreme," he said.
"Flights are being cancelled by the hour. In the past week, myself and my partner spent close to €5,000 on two separate flights that were cancelled. No sign of refunds for the foreseeable future.
"We are stranded in a hostel having both recently lost our jobs. We have been in touch with the Irish embassy and passed on our details. While that gives some sense of comfort; the advice is 'book a flight asap'.
"Flights are currently going for 10,000 dollars apiece. Airlines are taking money for essentially cancelled flights and then issuing flight vouchers. Most airlines have shut offices and unplugged phones," he added.
With that in mind, Colm set up a Facebook page called 'Get Us Home From Australia (Ireland)' to connect people and share advice. The group is also contacting politicians and government institutions to try and get help with their planned journeys home.
"We created polls asking what visa people are on and where in Australia they are situated. Over 200 people joined in an hour. It has been used to update info, help people source AIB card readers and give info on flights people are due to get," he said.
"It might not be much but it's a small comfort to some. There are people commenting that their visas have or are soon to run out, that the last of their money has gone on flights that were cancelled and some that are calling out for a couch before they are stranded on streets," Colm explained.
"To rent a house now you are looking at a months rent and a month or two deposit. That's not feasible for most at the moment.
"I can't finish this without mentioning how responsive and helpful TDs all over the country have been as well as the Irish consulate.
"I know there isn't much anyone can do but any bit of publicity or pressure feels like it goes a long way," he concluded.