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(Australian Associated Press)
More hardship loans are being made available for vulnerable Australians stuck overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government has already set aside $5 million for traveller emergency loans.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne is now making more cash available for Australian citizens stranded abroad.
“The loans are intended to cover temporary accommodation and daily living expenses until they can return,” Senator Payne said on Wednesday.
“Loans may also be available to help vulnerable Australians purchase tickets for commercial flights.”
Applicants will have to meet strict eligibility requirements and only the most vulnerable will be provided assistance.
All loans will need to be repaid on return to Australia.
There are now more than 23,000 Australians abroad who want to return, a third of whom are in India.
The total number has grown by more than 4200 in the past two weeks.
The federal government has imposed a weekly limit of 4000 incoming passengers to ease the burden on hotel quarantine.
But exemptions can be granted in exceptional circumstances.
Almost 3500 people stranded overseas are classified as vulnerable, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade so far issuing more than 400 emergency loans.
Until Wednesday, consular officials were given a $5 million budget for such loans.
They provided $1.3 million between March and June this year.
But there is no information available on how much money has been loaned out since the start of July.
Department officials have distanced themselves from a Nine newspapers report that government officers are encouraging stranded Australians running out of money to start GoFundMe style campaigns.
“That is not in the department’s advice to consular officers to tell people to run crowdfunding campaigns,” a senior bureaucrat told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.