Rally calls for end to China travel ban

Protesters in Sydney say the government's coronavirus measures are discriminatory.
Protesters in Sydney say the government's coronavirus measures are discriminatory.

Dozens of people have rallied outside the immigration department's Sydney offices calling on Canberra to lift the travel ban on foreign nationals travelling from China amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday that foreign nationals would be banned from travelling to Australia from mainland China as officials try to contain the spread of the deadly disease.

About 50 people gathered in the rain on Friday afternoon outside the Department of Immigration in Sydney to protest the restriction.

Some held signs stating "No politics of fear - we stand with the Chinese community" and "Solidarity with Wuhan" while others chanted "No racism, no fear, Chinese people are welcome here".

The protesters want the Australian government to lift the travel ban for foreign nationals.

They say international students should be able to come to Australia and are opposed to quarantining returning Australians on Christmas Island.

The World Health Organisation's advice is that global trade and travel restrictions are not needed.

NSW state Greens MP Jenny Leong questioned whether the travel ban would have been implemented had the virus originated in Europe.

"While we should never, ever doubt, that the coronavirus is a very, very scary thing ... we should always remember that racism and discrimination also kills, it also causes harm and it also causes damage," Ms Leong told Friday's rally.

A statement from a Chinese international student studying at the University of Sydney - who's currently in Wuhan - was read out to the crowd.

"We are strongly against the Australian government's unreasonable and unjust travel restriction," the student said.

Meanwhile, Anti-Discrimination NSW said on Friday the coronavirus was fuelling discriminatory behaviour within Australia's borders.

"We are very disappointed to hear reports of coronavirus-linked discrimination against Chinese and Asian communities across Australia," Anti-Discrimination NSW president Dr Annabelle Bennett said in a statement.

"We have heard alarming reports from the media, social media and firsthand accounts of people with an Asian background being targets of discrimination, racism and racial profiling."

Australian Associated Press