UK backpackers could face deportation over Covid beach parties in Sydney

Immigration minister Alex Hawkes said he had asked federal officials to work with police and local health authorities to identify anyone who had breached their visa conditions by attending the beach party.

“I was shocked by the scenes on Bronte Beach there and I’ve heard from a lot of people from across Sydney who are doing the right thing who are very upset about it,” immigration minister Alex Hawkes told Sydney radio station 2GB.

Concerns were raised over a potential “superspreader” event after hundreds of people wearing Santa hats gathered on Bronte Beach on Christmas Day.

Footage showed partygoers drinking, singing and dancing closely together without following social distancing guidelines or wearing masks. Witnesses told the BBC that many had English accents and were wearing English football shirts.

After months without a confirmed case, Sydney is attempting to clamp down on a recent outbreak which has spread to more than 100 people. Outdoor gatherings in the region are currently restricted to 100 people.

“And absolutely under the Migration Act if somebody is threatening public safety or health their visa can be cancelled or revoked.

“If anyone is caught doing the wrong thing, that their visa status will be brought before the federal government.”

However opposition home affairs spokesperson Kristina Keneally described the minister’s comments as “empty threats” that “can actually do more harm than good”.

Referring to the fact he had only been appointed to the job a few days ago, she tweeted: “People violating Covid rules are infuriating. So too is a P-plate Immigration Minister using #covid to get yet another headline, but no delivery.”

New South Wales Police said they had made an operational decision to disperse the Christmas Day gathering rather than take action against those flouting the guidelines. One 22-year-old man who was moved on from Bronte Beach was issued with a fine later the same day after he was seen at another gathering in Centennial Park. On Boxing Day 11 people were fined after police broke up a house party in North Bondi.

NSW Health minister Brad Hazzard described the Christmas Day parties as a “massive potential Covid-19 incubator”.

He added: “I get the desire for youthful Christmas exuberance, but this is as irresponsible, ignorant and idiotic as it gets.”

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