Covid and children: Five year old reunited with parents in Australia after 18 months

Monday, 21 June 2021 - 21:27

A five-year-old girl who was stuck in India for 18 months while her parents were in Australia has finally been reunited with her mother.

Johannah was visiting her grandparents in India when the pandemic struck and Australia's borders were closed.

The little girl flew into Sydney on Monday, and is now in quarantine with her mother, Drisya.

"Oh my god, it was so exciting, it's not something that can be described in words," Drisya told the BBC.

Drisya and Johannah's father, Dilin, had been trying desperately to bring their young daughter to Sydney, however cancelled flights and rules on unaccompanied minors prevented their reunion.

Facebook support group to help?
Through a Facebook support group dedicated to Australians stuck in India, they were introduced to a couple - Linda and Joby - who were planning to move to Sydney themselves, and offered to accompany Johannah on the flight.

"We got to know Linda over some weeks, and we trusted them," Drisya said, adding, "They both took care of my child, it was so nice of them, we would like to express our gratitude to them."

Linda and Joby also accompanied a second child on the Qatar flight, who was about the same age as Johannah.

Drisya and Dilin are not the only parents to turn to other families for help - Australian media has reported on a number of parents relying on people who have agreed to act as the child's guardian during the flight.

203 minors in India separated from their parents
At the start of June, updated figures from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) showed there were 203 minors in India separated from their parents - although some have since returned on repatriation flights.

Most of the children, like Johannah, have been living with extended family members.

Dilin described their struggle to be reunited at an Australian Senate committee hearing last month.

He said there was a lack of support from the government, and rules that were out of their control were preventing her from being with them, including her age - Johannah was too young to fly alone on both the government's repatriation flights and commercial flights.